Charge It (5/12/11)
Rob Bearman, Director, Global Alliances, Utilities and Energy, Better Place
Mike DiNucci, VP of Strategic Accounts, Coulomb Technologies
Jay Friedland, Legislative Director, Plug In America
Jonathan Read, CEO, ECOtality
Consumers are ready for electric vehicles. Entrepreneurs and policymakers just need to hustle to work out the kinks in the nationwide networks that will charge the cars, says this panel of experts assembled at Climate One. Automakers see a chance to free their customers from expensive oil, says Mike DiNucci, VP of Strategic Accounts, Coulomb Technologies: “Car companies see a golden opportunity to re-set that paradigm, and become more sustainably connected to their customers.” One company working to re-set the driving experience is Better Place, which plans to sells consumers miles through a network of charging and battery-swapping stations. “Better Place’s philosophy is we sell miles. The customer, the driver, should never have to think about kilowatt-hours. They should never have to plan, or have a timer at their charge spot,” says Rob Bearman, Director, Global Energy Alliance. Jonathan Read, CEO, ECOtality, says his company is working with utilities to develop real-time charging rates as low as $0.05 or $0.06 per kilowatt-hour during off-peak evening hours. “We’re always going to be competing between two minds: home charging and the price of gas. The consumer is always going to be making value judgments in between there. It’s our job as private-sector entrepreneurs to figure what is the tipping point” – at what point will consumers ditch gas cars for electricity, and how will they decide whether to charge in public or at home. Jay Friedland, Legislative Director, Plug In America, who has driven an electric Toyota RAV4 for a decade, says he’s confident consumers will get the price signals. He pays the equivalent of $0.75 per gallon to drive his EV, he says, cheaper than a gas-powered car by a factor of five in California, where gas is averaging over $4 per gallon. “EVs consumers will certainly get the pricing signal that comes from the utility, which is: If I get a bill, and my bill is high because I’ve been charging during the day time, and I know I can get cheap electricity at night, I’m going to go with the cheap electricity,” he says. Friedland and Rob Bearman both emphasize that EVs aren’t just cleaner and cheaper to drive; they are an important part of what Friedland calls a “virtuous cycle” – all-electric cars powered by renewable energy, stored and distributed, in part, by batteries. “Electric vehicles have the promise of taking cars off oil, and electric vehicle batteries have the promise of making the grid more renewable. As far as a cleantech solution that spans a lot of sectors in the cleantech industry, electric vehicles are really powerful,” says Rob Bearman.
This program was recorded in front of a live audience at the Commonwealth Club of California, San Francisco on May 12th, 2011