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Electric Car Roadtrip! Courtesy of SolarCity

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roadtripReady to make that grueling San Francisco to Los Angeles roadtrip . . . in an electric vehicle? Yeah, that doesn’t sound so great given the current limited range of EVs, but solar installer SolarCity has decided to lend a hand and has built a set of four solar electric-car charging stations along U.S. Route 101. SolarCity is calling the project the world’s first solar-powered electric-car charging corridor, and the stations have been built in parking lots belonging to Rabobank, the California subsidiary of the Dutch banking group, in Salinas, Atascadero, Santa Maria and Goleta. The project was built using funds from the California Air Resources Board as well as grid electricity and space donated by Rabobank.

The stations start to address what has been a major deterrent with electric vehicles -– the fact that they have ranges much smaller than that of gasoline cars. While some advocates scoff at the issue, pointing out that most Americans commute less than 35 miles per day, car companies worry that mainstream drivers will be reluctant to buy cars that they can’t take on road trips. As it is, electric-car drivers are afraid to drive far from their chargers.

One solution is to build many more charging stations, so that electric-car drivers -– like their gasoline-vehicle counterparts today –- can be confident that they will be able to find one. “We really need to build out our electric-vehicle-charging infrastructure,” SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive said. “Fast forward five years from now, it would be great if every store, every location, had a vehicle-charging station so drivers never have to think about where to get charged.”

The SolarCity stations each can charge one electric vehicle at a time for now, although Rive said the company plans to expand its efforts if more stations are needed. Each station comes equipped with a 29-kilowatt solar-power system that’s connected to the electrical grid, so that drivers can charge their vehicles even when the sun isn’t shining.

The stations are fast-charging, meaning that they feed electricity into the vehicles more speedily than standard wall outlets. But they still will take more than three hours to fully charge an electric car, said Rive, who added that most cars will only be half or two-thirds empty and will charge in an hour or an hour and a half. Tesla Roadsters, for example, can travel about 220 miles on a single charge. The charging stations are all located near shops and restaurants, so that drivers will be able to find things to do while waiting to tank up, he added.

The solar part of the equation helps to tackle a concern about the potential impact of vehicle charging on the grid. Fast-charging is tougher on the grid than regular charging, because more electricity is drawn out of the grid in a short amount of time, potentially causing instability.

Utilities fear these chargers could burden the already-strained grid, especially if electric vehicles are charging during the day, at times of peak demand. But drivers don’t want to be restricted from charging when they’re en route. The idea is that solar power would help the grid by generating electricity during those peak hours, eliminating any impact from the vehicle charging at critical times, Rive said. At night, the grid has surplus energy, so car charging wouldn’t be a problem.

The move could also help connect solar with the small but growing electric-vehicle market. While Rive said he doesn’t see electric vehicles as driving the solar market, he hopes that electric-vehicle owners will chose solar for their homes, as well as for their businesses. (SolarCity finances solar installations for homes and businesses, which agree to buy the resulting electricity for a fixed rate lower than their current electricity rates.) “The focus is adding all the ingredients to live a carbon-free lifestyle,” he said. “If every car was an electric vehicle, it would help the problem, but not solve it. We need electric vehicles combined with solar to solve it.”

4 Responses to “Electric Car Roadtrip! Courtesy of SolarCity”

  1. This is great news and an great improvement of the ability for people like me with electric cars we use for our daily commute to extend their use for even longer trips.

    As of now, my Mini-E over the past few months has been used for all my driving except for 3 trips (ironically to the Central CA Coast). We originally thought it would only be for commute and short trips but like it so much and have found it so capable, we rarely need our gas car.

    Putting charger stations at rest stops backed by solar panels would make it a pleasure to take weekend trips across the state.

    Now we just need them on the way to Vegas. Or even could rejuvenate the old Route 66 maybe with an electric cruising highway. I could hang out in a nice coffee shop for a while my car charges for the next 100 miles. Maybe not for everyone, but I would love it.

  2. Theme : Addressing Range Anxieties.

    1. As for long trip needs, all but Americans and many of developed nations have existing automobiles, in this regard, EVs are best suited to their daily use until the infrastructure comes into wide use. And people are already doing that.

    2. With a long extension code inside, just in case, riders can get help from almost anyplace as electricity is everywhere, not to mention the stores to provide charge service, and many of EVs are equipped with a quick charger.

    3. The on-board IT system shows the driving radius on a maximum range display under the current state of charge and calculates if the vehicle is within range of a pre-set destination. And the navigation system points out the latest information on available charging stations within the current driving range.

    4. Unlike fuel price, as time goes by, the price of battery is expected to drop dramatically in the foreseeable future as with computer components, in that case, mounting additional battery might be not a problem. And the EVs that come in a range of 200 to 300 miles between charges are on fast-tract toward mass-market, as well.

    5. Indian EV maker Reva said it has also set about addressing anxieties about e-car range, this fantastic wireless electricity/ “instant remote recharge” will be widely available down the line.

    6. The vehicle-to-grid communication technology is helping the battery serve as a storage to prevent the costly blackout standing at about $90 to 100bn per year. That means utilities are shedding cost for additional storage facilities and ratepayers are selling electricity during peak demand so that EVs can make more economic sense, as we know.

    It is also in the best interest of electricity utilities that EVs are going mainstream, thereby they need to put in charge stands where needed around highways, major roads with card readers or cell phone tech.

    1. I’m hopeful that the charge network will extend the select districts to nation-wide scale throughout the world, and this environment can usher in active private investings in EVs. And I remain confident that investing in charge stands could give rise to multiple times as much investing effect, so to speak, some billions of investing, this simple deployment, could call into the most-sought energy independence and solid recovery around the world.

    Thank You !