We've just returned from Raleigh, NC where the Plug In 2011 conference was being held, and have put together a slideshow of the electric cars and technologies on display. The most visceral argument for EVs? Take a look at the microwave and alarm clock that "run" on gasoline in the photo gallery below. If that doesn't make you want to go out and buy a EV, not much will. We also saw three leading trends at the event, which I note here:

  1. For the first time, Level 2 chargers are now available at big box retail stores.  GE’s announcement that their Level 2 (240V) EV chargers will be available at Lowe’s and lowes.com should be viewed as an early inflection point for the EV market. No doubt, other charging companies and other big box retailers (ahem, Home Depot & Best Buy) will soon be making similar offerings available, all of which will be great news for the acceleration of EV adoption.
  2. Roadside assistance for EVs? AAA has an app for that. What do you do if your EV runs out of charge? The same thing that you do when your traditional car won’t start: call AAA. Their service vehicles will provide hook-ups for both Level 2 and Level 3 (DC fast charging), with the idea being that this is not a specialty service, but one that all of their trucks could potentially have in the future.
  3. Go wireless, and forget about plugging in altogether! Companies like Virginia-based Evatran want to know, who needs the hassle of actually having to plug in a car when you could instead rely on electromagnetic induction and have the vehicle charge wirelessly.  The company claims that their 240V solution, dubbed "Plugless Power," charges as fast as the plug-in charging units. While theirs will sell at a premium, the difference is a lot less than you might think. Website: http://www.pluglesspower.com/

All in all, this year’s Plug In 2011 was an excellent event: well organized, well attended, and, most notably, attracting the right speakers from both the utility and smart gird vendor communities, not to mention most of the major auto OEMs working on electric transportation. We at Greentech Media are looking forward to attending again next year in Texas. 

Of further of note, just about everyone with whom we spoke expects residential Level 2 chargers to quickly drop in price (GE’s WattStation will initially retail for roughly $1000). Most industry observers expect this to fall into the $200 to $300 price range, as second- and third-gen EVs begin to be offered over the next eight years. Also of note, word on the (fake) streets inside the Raleigh Convention center is that SAE is getting closer to coming to an agreement on standards for communications between the cars and the charging units, with a decision expected within the next six to nine months. This will be absolutely critical in integrating these EVs into the smart grid to both accommodate and manage these thirsty appliances. 

Lastly, we asked AAA if they will able to recharge your EV while you are still driving (fighter jet style); to our dismay, the company is, at this point in time, not planning such a solution.

We'll be covering EVs and their effects on the smart grid in more detail at our Networked EV: Smart Grids and Electric Vehicles conference on Oct. 20, 2011. Registration is open! You can see the full agenda for the conference here.  For those looking for a detailed report explaining the technology and planning considerations that will enable a successful smart grid-EV convergence, please see the similarly titled report: The Networked EV: The Convergence of Smart Grids and Electric Vehicles.