State utilities gearing up for electric cars' needs
May 27, 2010 - New Haven Register
With the first mass market electric cars expected to be on showroom floors by the end of the year, the state played host to a forum examining how the market for such vehicles will develop.
The Regional Electric Vehicle Initiative forum, which was held at the Legislative Office Building last week, included participants from the automotive and utility industries. Connecticut Light & Power Co. and the United Illuminating Co. are founding members of REVI, which represents utilities from the Northeast.
"Electricity is a transportation fuel and it is a fuel that is underused in the state," said Lee Grannis, coordinator for the Greater New Haven Clean Cities Coalition.
But utilities like NRG Energy, which owns six power plants in Connecticut, and CL&P are hoping to change that.
Watson Collins, manager of business development at Northeast Utilities, said 40 to 60 businesses in the state have contacted CL&P about having electric car recharging stations on their premises. NU is CL&P's corporate parent.
"There's definitely an interest in this, not only from companies for their employees, but from retailers as well," Collins said. "It's almost like offering free Wi-Fi; businesses are using it to attract customers."
About 80 percent of the recharging of electric vehicles is expected to be done at home, said Megan Pomeroy, a business development professional with UI. Sixty percent of homes have 125-volt outlets within 25 feet of their garage, she said.
Jon Gordon, manager of external affairs at NRG Energy, said it is expected that 50,000 electric vehicles could be sold in the United States over the next 12 to 24 months. But in order for that to happen, "you need a public refueling station safety net," he said.
"Consumers are going to need that in order to feel comfortable (buying an electric car)," he said. "It should not be a sacrifice; it should be exciting."
Interest in the forthcoming all-electric Nissan Leaf has been strong enough that 12,000 people in New England have paid a $98 fee to reserve a place in line for one, according to UI officials. The fee is fully refundable. The Leaf will sell for $25,000 and lease for $349 per month.
Two other major automakers, Ford and General Motors, are scheduled to begin production by the end of the year on their entries in the race t o b r i n g e l e c t r i c cars into the mainstream.
Grannis said that with gas prices in Connecticut running about $3 per gallon, it costs $4.80 to go 40 miles, based on a car that averages 25 miles per gallon.
Even with the relatively high cost of electricity in Connecticut, it would cost an electric car driver $1.60 to go 40 miles, he said.
That is based on a cost of 20 cents per kilowatt hour and a vehicle that uses electricity at a rate of five miles per kilowatt hour.
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