The Electrics Are Coming: Is There a Charge Point in Your Home's Future?

September 27, 2010

Like it or not – and many consumers are still in the wait-and-see category – the wave of electric vehicles is about to sweep the country. At least, that’s the view of some researchers, along with entities in government, private industry, environmentalists, and lobbyists.

Automakers have recently stepped up their efforts, announcing or bringing out hybrids and all-electric vehicles.

But you can’t have electric vehicles without charge points. And that infrastructure needs to be built – fast. A recent report from Pike Research forecasts that a total of 4.7 million charge points will be installed around the world from 2010 to 2015.

The mix of charging station types, according to the cleantech market intelligence firm, will vary widely by region. Of particular interest, since we’re here in the United States, is that this nation is unique among electric vehicle markets – at 64 percent, residential charging units will dominate the 974,000 U.S. charge points to be installed by 2015.

And, unlike Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world, in the U.S., most of those charge points are likely to be installed in single family homes.

Plug-in hybrids--some of which use smaller battery packs with gasoline engines that extend their range, requiring less charging infrastructure--are also predicted to increase in number.

Let’s face it. Clean energy and energy independence costs money. There have to be compromises. If we get to the point of gasoline costing $9.00 per gallon – with all the taxes and surcharges to pay for clean energy (on top of the already-existing taxes) – consumer tastes are bound to change.

Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Getting more mileage – literally – out of a gallon of gas, or doing without the need for gasoline-powered vehicles entirely is an attractive proposition. And, as long as performance, comfort, utility, safety, and affordability aren’t sacrificed, why wouldn’t American consumers be all for it?

The automakers are certainly testing the waters – well, they pretty much have to in order to meet stricter fuel economy mandates that are coming – with some compelling product offerings.

While not everyone will buy or lease a $101,500 Tesla Roadster, plenty of consumers have already signed up for the $32,780 MSRP (net $25,280 after tax savings) 2011 Nissan Leaf all-electric car. In fact, Nissan says that more than 80 percent of the customers placing Leaf reservations are new to the company.

Teaser for Infiniti luxury EV due in 2013

Teaser for Infiniti luxury EV due in 2013

Enlarge Photo

And many other carmakers either have hybrids or electrics in production, or soon will have, including Infiniti, whose EV will debut in 2013. 

So, what’s this all mean for the rest of us? Is there an electric car in our future? Will we be looking to have a charge point installed in our garages in the next few years? Maybe as a power source for a second family car, perhaps?

To quote the lyrics in the old Bob Dylan song, “The times they are a-changin’…” And, as always, the marketplace will be the ultimate determinant.

If we're going to plug in to recharge, maybe consumers can lobby to get a break on their home electric bills – already sky-high and going higher in California (and many other states as well).

The saving grace? Plug-in cars cost just one-third to one-fifth as much per mile for "fuel," at 3 to 6 cents per mile versus 15 cents per mile (in a 20-mpg car using $3/gallon gasoline).

[Pike Research, Tesla, Nissan]

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