Electric Cars Struggling For Public Acceptance

Tesla Motors has installed a new set of free, solar-powered charging stations for its Model S sedan, six of which are located in California and fully charge an electric car in 30 minutes for a 150-mile journey. This initiative, which plans to cover most of the U.S. by 2014, will allow consumers to take long-distance trips such as Los Angeles to New York. We asked our Zintro experts whether this implementation would raise any safety, efficiency or environmental concerns among drivers.

Automotive and aerospace industry analyst, Myron Stokes, finds this expansion of Tesla charging stations to be a significant move in changing consumers’ perception of electric cars. “For several decades the modern auto industry has toyed with e-vehicles, but such efforts were largely born of brand enhancement through corporate responsibility outreach, and an inferred ability to effortlessly engage in technological leadership through innovation. What we are now seeing is an emergent acceptance both within industry, government and the motoring public of the e-vehicle reality,” he explains. Furthermore, Stokes trusts the technology enough to take a long-distance journey with an electric car this season. “Despite current and past difficulties in the solidification of corporate operations primarily due to uncertain economic stability outcomes, I believe that Tesla, Fisker and GM will emerge as the dominant players in the true e-vehicle arena as long as a partnership among US industry and government duplicates the resources and industry supportive policies routinely available to Chinese manufacturers, among other Asian contenders,” he continues. “I am convinced enough of the arrival and permanence of the e-vehicle era that I plan to go cross-country within the next 2 months in either a Tesla S Sedan, Fisker Quantum or Chevy Volt.”

Robert Earley, an expert in clean transportation research and policy development, assures that, if placed in strategic locations, Tesla’s new low-cost, solar charging stations will solve the issue of limited battery life. “The speed of these chargers is phenomenal, providing an 80% charge in 30 minutes, considerably faster than in-home chargers, meaning that drivers do not have to be concerned about being stranded for hours as they wait for a charge,” explains Earley. “Furthermore, the solar charge is a clean, low-emission source of electricity. Such chargers would be even more valuable in countries such as China, where most people live in apartments and do not have easy access to in-home chargers.” Nonetheless, Earley strongly recommends that EV manufacturers compete against conventional auto manufacturers for market share, rather than with each other, until electric vehicles gain public acceptance. “The primary issue is that these charging stations are only for the Model S – other Tesla cars can’t even use the charging stations, let alone other brands. Such a move will probably push up costs of charging and manufacturing due to competing standards, and will complicate EV ownership for drivers of all brands,” he adds.

As John Kua, a consultant in electric vehicle technologies, indicates, before installing high voltage charging stations, contractors need to take into account the strict installation codes at state and federal levels. “A more pressing concern, however, is the public perception about EVs – recall the negative press about recent fires of new EV models during operation and crash tests, purportedly caused by battery packs, ” he notes. As Kua also mentions, this new technology won’t be an energy efficient and cost-effective option for consumers. “These solar charge stations, depending on type of solar cells used, are expensive at low volumes, costing million of dollars for an initial network of 10 to 50 stations. Also to bear in mind, solar power, like wind, are intermittent energy sources, which depends on local solar insolation,” he adds. “This may be acceptable for sunny California and western states, but may not be that efficient for other parts of the country with wide climatic variation and solar insolation throughout the year.”

 By Idil Kan

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