New Ideas for Electric Car Charging

With the imminent arrival of electric cars from major automakers, such as the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf, best practices for electric car charging will no longer be a hypothetical discussion. Here are two ideas from a longtime electric car conversion expert: put the charging outlet on the car and/or use a 50-amp recreational vehicle (RV) outlet.

| August 27, 2010

  • Chevy Volt
    The Chevrolet Volt will come with a 120-volt charge cord so owners can recharge their vehicles directly from a standard home electrical outlet.

  • Chevy Volt

Plug-in electric cars will be available for consumers by the end of the year. This new "fueling" method can enable us to drive without exhaust emissions and reduce our oil dependence. In addition, a home solar or wind energy system can offset the pollution from power plants used to charge plug-in vehicles for truly zero-emissions travel. If enough people make the switch to electric transportation, the dire consequences of fossil fuel dependence and climate change could be avoided.

I have built more than two dozen plug-in electric cars over the last 20 years, from electric rototillers to electric Porsche Spyders. The vehicles I built had onboard chargers that could be plugged into common 110-volt or 240-volt outlets. When plugged in, no current flows until another switch or timer turns on, so there was no chance of arching or shock.

In 2002, I stopped building electric cars and purchased one of the few electric cars sold by Toyota (a RAV4 EV) that met the requirements of California’s zero-emission mandate. Although the electric cars I built were fun to drive and never left me stranded, the weight of the lead-acid batteries available at the time was a limiting factor in the cars' practicality.

We use our electric car for all local driving. For longer trips, I have set up the RAV4 EV’s inductive wall-mounted charger so that it can be put in the back of the car and plugged into any 30- to 50-amp 240-volt outlet.

A gas-run RAV4 costs around 0.10 dollars/mile for fuel and maintenance, so we’ve saved close to $10,000 driving our electric RAV4 over the last eight years. More importantly, we have saved about 5,000 gallons of fuel and stopped 50 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

Our electric Toyota RAV4 has a 27 kWh NiMH (nickel-metal hydride) battery pack with half the weight of a lead-acid pack of the same capacity. It can go 80 to 100 miles per charge and now has 120,000 trouble-free miles on the original NiMH battery. We have a 3.5 kW net-metered solar array that allows enough excess power into the grid during the day when rates are high to offset the power used to charge our EV at night when rates are low. The night rate is about 0.07 dollars/kWh, which means it costs less than 0.02 dollars/mile to drive our EV.

Mr. Solar Source
9/7/2010 8:27:37 AM

"And, while you’re at it, ask for photovoltaic shades over all the parking lots baking in the sun." Yes, Thank You Steve H. !! I have been putting these (Bifacials also) as house canopies and trying to get companies to cover their parking lots as charging stations (like S.M.U.D. did in 90's). Will you do an article on "PV Charging Shelters" for us? Thanks, Mr."Solar Source"

9/4/2010 8:41:10 AM

Solar panel shaded parking stalls was an idea I had over a couple of decades ago living in the Bay Area of CA while letting the heat out of my "solar oven" of a car. Also having a roof mounted solar panel connected to a fan for cooling the interior of my car on a hot day while parked in the sun. And as for the Toyota RAV4 having a 27 kWh NiMH (nickel-metal hydride) battery pack with half the weight of a lead-acid pack of the same capacity that can go 80 to 100 miles per charge? Double the size to a 54 kwh NiMH battery pack and be able to go 160 to 200 miles per charge! I know what most would think, more weight heads you towards the point of diminishing returns, but use a super light vehicle like a Factory Five kit car and offset the extra weight all the while looking damn good while doing it! NO, WAIT, CHEVRON WONT LET US USE THOSE SIZED BATTERY PACKS AS THEY HOLD THE PATENT RIGHTS! THAT IS WHY THE RAV4 EV IS NO LONGER SOLD HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!! BASTIGES!!!!!!!!!!


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