Fast Charging 2011 Nissan LeafEnlarge Photo
If photovoltaic solar panel costs continue to fall, the transition may happen more quickly as utilities boost the proportion of their generation that comes from renewable sources.
The Edison Electric Institute, a think tank of sorts for the utility industry, has concluded that its century-old business model--in which it bundles the costs of providing electricity and maintaining the grid that does so--will be demolished within 10 or 15 years by widespread distributed renewable power.
That transition can only be aided by the falling costs of the lithium-ion cells used in electric-car batteries, which will also permit individual buildings not only to generate energy via solar or wind but also to store it.
The ability for a building to power itself for a few hours is hugely advantageous to utilities in reducing periods of peak demand--and it's something the utility may well pay for.
Photovoltaic solar power field at Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee
Photovoltaic solar power field at Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, TennesseeEnlarge Photo
New debates focus on carbon
In just four years, a previous round of arguments about why electric cars will fail has essentially disappeared.
It used to be said that no one wanted electric cars, that they would leave you stranded, that their batteries would blow up, or that their batteries would fail after just four or five years.
Now the debate has migrated to the grounds of accepted climate science, and it looks in detail at the wells-to-wheels carbon footprint produced by using a vehicle over its full lifetime.
And as noted, cars powered by grid electricity have the delightful characteristic that they get cleaner as the grid does.
That's simply not the case for cars with combustion engines, which have the same carbon footprint per mile throughout their lifetimes.
Ford and Windy Energy Windy System clean-energy pilot program.Enlarge Photo
Read the actual study, perhaps?
And it's certainly not a point that those alarmist headlines are making today.
Former Green Car Reports writer Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield has a nice take on the study and the headlines.
On Transport Evolved, she writes, "When making academic papers and studies palatable for the masses, important facts are nearly always left by the wayside."
In other words: Read the actual study, not the headlines.