Electric Vehicle Conference Highlights Automakers’ Newest Offerings

by Bill Malcolm*, guest author

Nationwide, growth of electric vehicles (EVs) is taking off. By 2025 it’s predicted there will be 3.5 million registered plug-in EVs (compared to the 215,000 on the road today). The Electric Drive Transportation Association’s (EDTA) annual conference was May 19-21 in Indianapolis and revealed some key developments and topics for discussion in the EV world.

A highlight of the conference was hearing from the various automakers about the new technologies and added services available to EV owners. These include:

  •  Nissan said its Leaf was the best-selling EV with 50,000 on U.S. roads today. It offers a charge card with free charging (restrictions apply) at many charging locations run by different companies. Nissan said 92% of Leaf households were new to the Nissan brand.
  • GM’s Chevy Volt can go gas-free for 38 miles and also has a gas tank. The daily charging cost is just $1.60 on average. Drivers average 900 miles between fill-ups. The Volt includes an OnStar Remote Link mobile application that alerts you when your charge is complete. GM said 84% of the charging is done at home, and 70% of the charging is “Level 1” (120 kV). The timing of when an EV is charged is also a hot topic. If EVs are charged in the middle of the night, for example, the vehicles could fill in the utility load valleys (i.e., at 3 a.m.). Utility programs are helping. GM said that in Michigan both major utilities ran a pilot program to incent customers to put 240 kV (Level 2 or faster) chargers in homes. Approximately 2,500 rebates per utility were available and they were all used up. 
  • Mitsubishi said EVs provided power after the Japanese earthquake. (This is known as vehicle-to-grid). 
  • Most exciting perhaps was the extended-range electric truck from VIA that gets 100 mpg, plugs in anywhere, and can export power to provide mobile emergency power to keep facilities on line at a job site or during an outage. This development is significant because it replaces a truck with relatively modest fuel economy (compared with an electric vehicle, which typically replaces a compact car that already gets decent fuel economy).

Also during the conference, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard announced the city will change its fleet to plug-in hybrid EVs to save the city $8,000-$10,000 per year, per vehicle. Ballard also announced the new BlueIndy electric vehicle car share program in a partnership with Bollore Group of France. The cars can go 120 miles without being recharged. 

Note: This article was originally published in our Q2 issue of Energy Insider. Read the full article here including a discussion on what changes utility companies are making to help transition to a more EV-friendly future.

*About the author: Bill Malcolm is an Indianapolis-based energy and transit analyst who writes the Commission Corner and RTO Watch columns for The Cruthirds Report, a Houston-based energy newsletter. He has previously worked at PG&E, ANR Pipeline, and MISO. He can be reached at BillMalcolm@gmail.com.

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