GreenHomes, home energy…and electric cars

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Everyone is very excited about the new electric (and kind-of electric) cars coming out – the Nissan Leaf, the GM Volt, the electric Ford Focus, the plug-in Prius, and many more are on the way.

Ford Focus Electric Car 2010What do electric vehicles have to do with homes? Two things right off the bat. First, obviously, if you’ve got an electric vehicle, you’ve got to charge it. The rapid chargers that are used to charge the EV require higher voltage and amperage than your standard breakers and outlets can provide so your home will likely require some electrical upgrades. And second, once you start charging your car, your electricity usage will go up so it will likely result in higher electric bills. There could be an unpleasant surprise in areas with higher electric rates, tiered rates or “time-of-use” metering and rates.

This could get very interesting. The impact on electricity supply will be significant in the future—and every region of the United States in facing electric generation capacity issues within the next 4-5 years, even with all the new power plants on the drawing boards. Here’s a picture a couple of years down the road when thousand of electric vehicles are on the road, many of which will be in states such as California that are struggling to keep up with electricity demand. What will happen when 25,000 electric vehicles are being charged during the middle of the summer in the afternoon during peak load? 50,000? 100,000? Ever heard of brown outs?

It raises some good questions. What will the policy be? All chargers are automatically turned off? How will folks get home if their electric cars don’t have enough battery power left? You get the picture. The emergence of charging stations along with the proliferation of air conditioners (20 years ago no one had an air conditioner within 10 miles of the coast – now they are prevalent), big screen TV’s in homes and businesses, computers in every room or office, etc. is going to continue to put a monster strain on the nation’s electricity grid.

Don’t get me wrong. Electric vehicles are part of the answer, at least in the short term, to wean ourselves off of foreign energy sources. And watching the news over the past several weeks, that certainly seems as prudent as ever. It’s just we’ve got to plan and prepare appropriately. And one of the ways we can handle this is by offsetting the electric load of new electric vehicles with efficiency savings in our country’s building—homes representing half of that energy use.

It’s good energy policy. It’s good national security. It’s good macro economics. And it’s good HOME economics. By increasing the energy efficiency of your home, you can offset the additional electrical load of the EV charging station. You’ll save immediately. And the added benefits are huge, namely increased comfort throughout your home, fixing rooms that are too hot or too cold, reducing home maintenance –all while saving your money.

You can count on a lot more discussion of electric vehicles, home energy use, and the connection between the two, right here, and on the GreenHomes America website.

Thanks,
Mike

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