Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Building an Infrastructure

As we try and evolve our automotive industry, and perhaps our energy policy, to move into the future in the US, one of the big things that is being looked at is electric cars. Now I am a car guy, and in many ways I think electric cars are a good idea. I think my Prius performs really well, and I'm really happy with my half-electric car.

I found an interesting article that talks about the plans to move forward with more electric cars. With this very high price of oil in the US this past summer and the automotive bailout after our economic woes this fall, moving to a new technology to reduce our oil dependence is important. It might not be the most efficient thing we can do, but from a PR standpoint, it's important to move this forward.

Years ago I worked at Virginia Power, owned by Dominion Resources. They had some electric cars at the headquarters in Richmond and specific charging stations set up. The cars weren't for IT peons, and I'm not sure who they were for, but I thought that was cool and that it would take off. You couldn't necessarily commute with them, but you could run errands or go have lunch.

That didn't take off, even though I heard from CA utilities were doing that as well. I'm sure the cost of so few cars made by GM and so few places they could be used limited the usefulness of the program, but that's an area you have to invest in, not look at a few quarters and give up. And you have to partner to make these things sell.

I think utilities have a great interest in moving these things forward. They could set up charging stations in shopping malls, park and rides, etc. and then charge people by the minute to top off their cars. If you set it up in smaller areas, selling the program on high density areas, perhaps incentives to families that might be willing to try and support the infrastructures, and grow the program.

Electric, hydrogen, or any alternative fuel vehicles, including natural gas, are in a chicken-and-egg situation. Neither car manufacturers nor utilities want to invest in infrastructures or cars without the other. Which means we need government helping to promote these ideas. It's not just about profits for these companies, it's about moving the entire country forward.

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