Planet Gore

Not So Fast With Those Fast-Charging Stations

<a href="http://greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/28/plans-for-fast-charging-stations-raise-concerns-among-california-utilities/-39211″>Utilities are raising questions on the idea of “fast charging” stations for all-electric cars. “Green, Inc.”:

But utilities — concerned that fast-chargers could overload the electricity grid — are more cautious.

Think and AeroVironment did not reveal the voltage of their fast-charger but such devices — known in the industry as “Level 3” chargers — generally average around 440 volts. Most household appliances run on 110 volts.

“It is premature to evaluate the feasibility or safety of Level 3 fast-charging equipment,” wrote Christopher Warner, a lawyer for the utility Pacific Gas and Electric, in a brief filed with the California Public Utilities Commission in October. “Such charging may require large investments in infrastructure and load management constraints in order to prevent ‘mini-peaks’ and localized impacts on grid reliability.”

The utilities commission is working with automakers, charging station companies and utilities to develop regulations for the deployment of an electric car infrastructure in California. It’s unlikely that fast-chargers will be installed in homes, given their cost. In a filing with the utilities commission, San Diego Gas and Electric estimated such charging stations would cost about $30,000.

Instead, fast chargers will probably be installed in commercial facilities and along highways or at existing gas stations so drivers can top off their batteries during long-distance trips.

Andrew Tang, a senior director at PG&E, the dominant utility in Northern California, said the deployment of fast-chargers would require careful planning to ensure the devices didn’t cause grid problems, particularly if they were installed in places like service stations.

“We have to think hard about that issue, and we’ve only begun to scratch the surface,” he said in an interview. “They’re not getting that level of voltage from us today. If the chargers are in transportation corridors, it would be easier to calculate and supply that level of service.”

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