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Utilities preparing for electric cars

Jun 21, 2010 - New Haven Register - Energy Central

Utilities in Connecticut and across America are preparing for the debut at the end of the year of battery-powered electric vehicles and cars that run on both electricity and gas.

Leaders of some of America's largest utilities said Thursday they don't expect a large increase in demand for electricity as cars like the Chevrolet Volt and others begin to hit showrooms. But the utility officials, speaking on a conference call with reporters, admit there is still a lot they don't know about how U.S. consumers will react to electric vehicles.

"We don't expect to see any large-scale impact to the grid for many years," said Mike Rowand, director of Advanced Customer Technology for Duke Power in North Carolina, which provides electricity to 4 million customers in five states in the Southeast and Midwest. "We need to pay attention as this develops, but we think it will be manageable."

But utilities like The United Illuminating Co. are still uncertain enough about the electric usage patterns that will come from the use of electric cars that they will implement two programs in the coming months.

The first, which will be rolled out later this summer, involves the deployment of a dozen public recharging stations in some of the larger communities in the UI service area, including New Haven, said Al Carbone, a UI spokesman.

Carbone would not disclose exactly where the recharging sites would be, but said they would be in areas in which the public "uses longer-term parking."

Automakers and groups like the one that conducted Thursday's teleconference, the Electric Drive Transportation Association, say that depending upon the type of car and charger used, fully recharging an electric vehicle will take anywhere from five to eight hours.

The other UI pilot program will be rolled out later this year and will involve installing recharging units in some homes of utility customers, Carbone said.

Northeast Utilities, the parent company of Connecticut Light & Power Co., announced in April 2009 it would spend $1.38 million to have 575 recharging stations for electric cars in place here and Massachusetts before the end of 2011.

NU officials weren't available Thursday to update how that effort is going.

But Watson Collins, manager of business development at NU, said at a conference two weeks ago that 40 to 60 businesses in the state have contacted CL&P about having the recharging stations on their premises.

Mark Duvall, director of electric transportation for the Electric Power Research Institute, said that surveys indicate that an individual's car spends about 66 percent of the time parked at home and 15 percent parked at work.

"There is quite a bit of controversy over how much (recharging infrastructure) is needed, but because it's so expensive, the overwhelming focus needs to be on residential," Duvall said. "At the end of the day, there needs to be a network outside of at home and at work."


Updated: 2016/06/30

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