Thursday, March 4, 2010

New Commitments to Electric Vehicle Charging Networks

Municipal and private fleets may have more reason to investigate electric vehicles soon to arrive on commercial markets, thanks in large part to new agreements in several key regions to build vast networks of charging stations for electric vehicles.

Israel, home to the electric charging station empresario Shai Agassi, has already built several hundred charging stations capable of swapping the lithium-ion batteries from electric vehicles in as little as 45 seconds. The batteries are expected to have a life of 7,000 charges, far more than the 150,000 miles of an average car's lifespan.

The State of Hawaii has also committed to officially endorsing Mr. Agassi's first round of electric charging stations.

Both Israel and Hawaii, as well as other demonstrations in Denmark, demonstrate how the network of charging stations could be ideal for communities with shorter vehicle trips and high gas prices. On Hawaii, for instance, drivers rarely make trips than 100 miles, due to the islands' confining geography. The one characteristic these areas share in common is that they are each considered "island economies" with above average energy prices, making them ideal testing grounds for electric vehicles. Once these charging station networks become established locally and increase their market share, the supply of charging stations will have increased sufficiently to become more affordable for larger regions with lower energy prices.

For fleets looking to reduce the environmental impacts, regardless of where they are located, the "island economy" narrative is a fitting metaphor. Fleets are, due to their size (for larger cities, many thousands of vehicles) have a disproportionate influence on local commercial vehicle markets. If large fleets were able to commit to significant number of these electric fueling stations, they could easily create an economy of scale, reducing the overall price and making the purchase of these stations more affordable for private consumers.

This "island economy" approach is a contrast to Evergreen Fleets' Best Practices, which tend to focus on purchasing and retrofitting existing vehicles. Often this approach leads to the manufacture of new vehicles or equipment, which adds to the fleet's overall carbon footprint yet is not calculated against the fleets as an environmental externality in Evergreen Fleets certification. A new focus on green vehicle infrastructure over vehicle purchasing, as Agassi's partnerships demonstrate, may be a more effective method for making electric vehicles widely practical and available, thereby reducing fleet emissions.

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