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Smart Electric Vehicles and Smart Grids

By John Addison (8/20/09). The new freeway-speed electric vehicles will also be smart electric vehicles (SEV). They will be smart about using energy inside the vehicle so that it can go 100 miles between charges. The SEV will be smart about navigation options that consider your preference for getting somewhere fast or traveling with minimal energy use. SEVs will be full of electronics to entertain passengers, like kids in the back seat.

They will be smart about charging to meet driver preferences for saving money or charging more quickly. Smart electric vehicles ideally use a smart grid for charging. The electric utilities see the electric vehicle as part of the new smart grid which uses information technology to make the electric grid efficient, reliable, distributed, and interoperable. Years ago, mainframe computers with dumb terminals gave way to network computing. Similar improvements are now underway with the electric grid.

At the Plug-in 2009 Conference and Exposition in Long Beach, I joined thousands in seeing new electric vehicles, new smart charging stations, and joining presentations by leading auto makers, utilities, early fleet users, and sustainable city leaders from Southern California Edison (EIX), SDGE (SRE), AQMD, EPRI, and many others.

At the Plug-in Conference, the new Nissan Leaf (NSANY) got a lot of deserved attention. By the end of 2011, Nissan may deliver as many as 10,000 of these. Most will be delivered where utility and other partners have committed to complete programs to install garage, employer, and other public charging stations.

The new 2010 Nissan Leaf is a comfortable compact hatchback that seats five. Clean Fleet Report’s test drives of Nissan EV prototypes demonstrated plenty of acceleration. The Nissan Leaf is powered by 24kWh of lithium-ion batteries. The Leaf has a range of about 100 miles. In 8 hours you are good for another 100 miles with a Level 2 AC200V home-use charger; in 26 minutes you can be 80 percent charged with a Level 3 DC 50kW quick charger.

Transportation expert, Antonio Benecchi a Partner with Roland Berger forecasts that plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles will capture 10 to 20 percent of the auto market by 2030. The speed of adoption will depend on cost and early customer experience. If the lifetime cost of owning and operating an electric vehicle is less than a comparable gasoline powered one, 20 percent could be low by 2030.

When you get an iPhone, Nokia, or Blackberry, the cost of the smartphone depends on the type of subscription plan you have with the wireless carrier. Similarly, over the next few years, automakers and their partners may explore different business models such as:

· Vehicle purchased with battery leased
· Vehicle, battery, and energy for charging are all subscribed
· EV and charging are part of carsharing plans
· Integrated mobility offerings will include an EV

For example, the Nissan Leaf might be offered by a dealer for under $30,000 with battery and charging offered on a subscription plan by Better Place or various electric utilities.

If charging and subscription plans are kept simple, consumers will love it. If consumers must sign for different plans as they go to different cities, EVs will be a turn-off. Early cell phone users rebelled against complicated plans and big surprise “roaming” charges.

Standards are being put in place so that auto makers, charging station providers, and electric utilities will be compatible. A key standard is automotive SAE J1772, which standardizes the electrical connection, current flow, and some communication between smart vehicle and smart charger. This standard is compatible with important advanced metering smart home electric standards such as Smart Energy 2.0.

EV customers will be able to check on how much their EV batteries are charged through a web browser, their smart phone, or by looking at their vehicle dash. The networking and software is there, so that they could look at monthly vehicle use and charges.

Electric utility operators will be able to track, manage, and forecast EV electricity use thanks to smart charging stations with electric utility meter chips built in such as Coulomb ChargePoint Networked Charging Stations and ETEC (ETLY.OB – disclosure: author owns this stock), who has already installed over 5,500 charging stations. ETEC will be installing over 12,500 new charging stations thanks to a matching grant of almost $100 million from DOE.

I am on the wait list to buy the Nissan Leaf. When I get a new EV or PHEV, I would be glad to agree to a subscription plan that would save me $100 per month if I would agree to have my vehicle not charge during peak-demand hours. We’ll see if I am given that kind of option. Thanks to software services from GirdPoint and others, the technology is there to plug-in and having charging managed by user preferences and subscription agreements.

Utilities could shape demand to off-peak. Utilities could use EVs for spinning reserves and peak power using vehicle-to-grid (V2G). Dr. Jasna Tomic with CALSTART estimates that the national grid would only need 7 percent additional capacity to off-peak charge 100 million electric vehicles. Those same vehicles could provide 70 percent of the national grid’s needed peak power. Smart grid upgrades, customer price signals and subscription agreements could enable growing use of V2G in the coming decade.

Smart vehicles and smart grids create a trillion dollar opportunity for incumbents and innovators. The opportunity has attracted GM, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, and hundreds of other auto makers. It has attracted the world’s largest electric utilities and grid operators. This smart grid “Internet” for electricity now has devoted teams inside IBM, Google, Cisco, Microsoft, and other information technology giants.

The smart electric vehicle is symbiotic with the smart grid. The information communication technology is there. It is the business models and customer experience that count. Get ready for the most comfortable and intelligent ride of your life.

By John Addison. John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and speaks at conferences. He is the author of the new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – now selling at Amazon and other booksellers.

2010 Nissan LEAF EV on a Freeway Near You

By John Addison (8/3/09). Nissan (NSANY) will be the first to have thousands of affordable freeway-speed electric vehicles on the highways. The new 2010 Nissan LEAF is a comfortable compact hatchback that seats five.

Although Tesla will be the first to have a thousand freeway-speed EV on the roads, the $100,000 price tag is out of reach for most of us. According to Nissan, the LEAF will be “competitively priced in the range of a well-equipped C-segment vehicle.” In late 2010, Nissan will finalize pricing and its sale and/or lease strategy. We expect the LEAF to start around $30,000. Buyers are likely to qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit.

The Nissan LEAF will build on Nissan’s hybrid-electric success with the Altima Hybrid, which is in currently in the #6 position for U.S. cars with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions. The Nissan Altima Hybrid starts at $26,500.

Clean Fleet Report’s test drives of the Nissan EV demonstrated plenty of acceleration. The Nissan LEAF is powered by 24kWh of laminated compact lithium-ion batteries, which generate 90 kW of power, while its electric motor delivers 80kW/280Nm.

The LEAF has a range of about 100 miles. In 8 hours you are good for another 100 miles with a Level 2 AC200V home-use charger; in 26 minutes you can be 80 percent charged with a Level 3 DC 50kW quick charger. The 440v Level 3 chargers are likely to be scare, expensive, and certainly not for home use.

Nissan did not announce that LEAF batteries can be quickly swapped, but Nissan continues to partner with Better Place.

Many drivers will only spend $20 to $40 per month for electricity – a fraction of what they now spend for gas at the pump. Early adopters of electric vehicles, especially fleets, often use their solar power to charge vehicles.

In 2010, the Nissan will first be available in CA, OR, WA, AZ, TN, and NC.

Nissan is working with a number of global partners to accelerate development of a charging infrastructure, early fleet use, and education. For example, when I recently spoke at a San Diego cleantech event (presentation videos) San Diego Gas and Electric (SRE) announced early roll-out of 1,000 Nissan LEAF and an extensive charging infrastructure. Clean Fleet Report predicts that Nissan will be the first to have 10,000 freeway-speed electric vehicles on the road.

Toyota, Chevrolet, Chrysler and others will compete with Nissan by offering plug-in hybrids which will go up to 40 miles in battery electric mode and then engage gasoline engines to provide hundreds of miles of added range until the next gasoline fill-up or electric charge.

Nissan, however, is focused on zero-emission leadership. Longer term, Nissan expects to see many urban centers, such as London, where only ZEV will be exempt from expensive daily congestion fees. The 100-mile range meets the needs of 90 percent of U.S. daily driving and meets the needs of households with two or more cars.

Nissan will also face battery-electric competition next year from Ford (F), Chrysler, Mercedes (DAI) Smart, and dozens of emerging innovators. Electric vehicles are not new to the United States. 40,000 now drive light electric-vehicles on corporate and college campuses, typically with 25 mph speeds and 25 mile ranges.

Nissan LEAF employs an exclusive advanced IT system. Connected to a global data center, the system can provide support, information, and entertainment for drivers 24 hours a day. The dash-mounted monitor displays Nissan LEAF’s remaining power – or “reachable area” – in addition to showing a selection of nearby charging stations. Another state-of-the-art feature is the ability to use mobile phones to turn on air-conditioning and set charging functions – even when Nissan LEAF is powered down. An on-board remote-controlled timer can also be pre-programmed to recharge batteries.

The LEAF has a distinctive aerodynamic design. The “blue earth” color theme of the Aqua Globe body color of Nissan LEAF’s introductory model compliments the blue dashboard and instrumentation.

The first of Nissan’s EV’s will be manufactured at Oppama, Japan, with additional capacity planned for Smyrna, Tennessee, USA. Meanwhile, lithium-ion batteries are being produced in Zama, Japan, by the Nissan-NEC JV with additional capacity planned for the USA, the UK and Portugal, and other locations.

Nissan’s leadership will accelerate the manufacturing of fully-functional electric vehicles in volume. Manufacturing volume will drive down cost, making zero-emission vehicles cost competitive with gasoline counterparts. Electric vehicles will likely be less expensive for people to drive with low-cost nighttime charging. It will be easy for people to save on emissions when they are saving money at the same time.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report. He is the author of Save Gas, Save the Planet.

Top Utilities Grow Solar Power Despite Recession

By John Addison. Today, the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) whose membership includes 110 utilities issued a new report – “2008 Top Ten Utility Solar Integration Rankings” – which identifies the utilities in the U.S. that have the most solar electricity integrated into their portfolio.
The report demonstrates that the utility segment is making a major investment to increase the amount of solar energy in power portfolios, with many utilities doubling the amount of solar power in their portfolio in just one year. The installed solar capacity of the top ten ranked utilities rose 25 percent in a tough economy, from 711 megawatts to 882 megawatts.
The Top 10 Utilities in cumulative megawatts installed represent six states stretching from California to New York:

#1 Southern California Edison (EIX) – CA (441.4MW)
#2 Pacific Gas & Electric (PCG) – CA (229.5)
#3 NV Energy – NV (77.9)
#4 San Diego Gas & Electric (SRE) – CA (49.3)
#5 Public Service of Colorado (Xcel Energy – XEL) – CO (28.5)
#6 LA Department of Water & Power – CA (13.6)
#7 Public Service Electric & Gas Co. – NJ (13.2)
#8 Arizona Public Service Co. – AZ (10.6)
#9 Sacramento Municipal Utility District – CA (10.2)
#10 Long Island Power Authority – NY (7.7)

Although the sunny West Coast dominates this year’s list, other states are coming on strong including Florida, North Carolina, and Florida. Yes, the availability of sunlight is one driver in the expanded use of solar. Other drivers include the retail price of electricity, state government initiatives such as RPS, and cap-and-trade of emission credits.
There are two primary solar technologies, photovoltaic and concentrating solar power. Photovoltaic (PV) technologies utilize a photosensitive material to generate electricity direct from sunlight. PV can also be magnified using mirrors or lenses in low- or high-concentrations known as concentrating photovoltaic technology or CPV. Concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies utilize mirrors or lenses to concentrate sunlight on a point or line and generate high-temperature heat, which is captured to generate electricity in a later process.
Julia Hamm, Executive Director of SEPA, sees strong growth in both PV and CSP. For example, Southern California Edison is planning a massive 1.3GW of CSP with BrightSource. Arizona Power is planning 125MW of PV. Medium- and utility-scale photovoltaic and concentrating solar thermal power projects are adding around 20 billion of dollars worth of investment.
Some European nations that aggressively use wind power, such as Spain and Denmark, have demonstrated that intermittency is quite manageable when renewable energy is less than 20% of the mix. CSP can take the mix much higher by storing energy in liquids like molten salt for delivery when demand peaks.
#5 on the list, Public Service of Colorado (Xcel Energy), is already experimenting with vehicle-to-grid (V2G Report), which will allow the growing population of electric vehicles to provide power to the grid during peak hours. Utilities are experimenting with several forms of large scale grid-storage which will be promising if significant costs are achieved.
Some 30 years ago, solar was dismissed as impractical. Now that PV manufacturing cost is 100 times less than in early days, utilities are taking the lead in the growing demand for solar power.

John Addison writes about clean transportation and renewable energy. He is the author of the new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – which includes details of the growing use of renewable energy in powering cars, public transportation, and high-speed rail.