Commonwealth National Podcast

EVs + Smart Grid. Pedalpower: Accelerating EVs into the Fast Lane

Duration: 
1:02:56

Horsepower: Accelerating EVs into the Fast Lane

Anthony Eggert, Commissioner, California Energy Commission, Transportation Lead
Diane Wittenberg, Executive Director, California EV Strategic Plan
Diarmuid O'Connell, Vice President of Business Development, Tesla Motors
Marc Geller, Co-founder, Plug-In America
Greg Dalton, Founder of Climate One, Moderator

 

Born before the Model T, revived and then extinguished a decade ago by GM, the electric vehicle is poised to dominate the global car industry, says this panel of transportation experts convened by Climate One. “The demand for these vehicles is greater than the supply,” says Marc Geller, Co-Founder, Plug in America. “Through this year it would appear that Nissan and Chevrolet have all but sold out of their first 35,000 vehicles, with the Leaf and the Volt. There are customers who are ready for electric and plug-in hybrids for many different reasons, but it’s really an issue of getting the cars to market.” Manufacturers are responding, says Diarmuid O’Connell, Vice President of Business Development, Tesla Motors, because this time there is a market, and money to be made. “This is hardly a philanthropic endeavor that we’ve taken on,” he says. One potential obstacle to widespread adoption of EVs is their (for now) higher upfront cost. Anthony Eggert, former Commissioner at the California Energy Commission, stresses the low lifetime cost of owning an EV. “You really want to look at total cost of ownership. It’s not just the initial purchase price of the vehicle, which is going to be higher,” he says. Diane Wittenberg, Executive Director, California EV Strategic Plan, agrees. “An average conventional vehicle, to drive 100 miles, costs about $6 in fuel; with pure electric, it would be about $2. Most people don’t know that off the top of their heads. It’s an education challenge,” she says. Manufacturers must also contend with customer fears that EVs will leave them stranded. “We should be clear when we’re speaking about charge time,” says Marc Geller. “We act as if these vehicles are actually driving 24/7, as if they’re all in taxi fleets. Most people’s cars sit 22 hours a day.” During the Q&A, a member of the audience asks how policymakers plan to replace sales tax revenue lost when drivers fill up with electricity rather than gas. “These vehicles will eventually have to pay their fair share of road taxes, to be able to use the system,” says Anthony Eggert, “but the actual impact to the collection of road taxes is likely to be negligible for the next 5 plus years.“ “That would be a high-class problem, as far as I’m concerned,” responds Tesla’s O’Connell. “Let’s hope that we’ll be solving that problem within five years.”

 

This program was recorded in front of a live audience at The Commonwealth Club on January 13, 2011

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