GM and EPRI Team Up to Prepare Utilities for Coming EVs and PHEVs

By Philip Reed July 21, 2008

SJSaturnVuePlugInHybrid.jpg At right, GM's Plug-in Electric Saturn, planned for release in 2010, is recharged at a public station in San Jose.

By Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor

Paving the way for plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, GM is teaming up with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to bring together 34 utility companies across 37 states to prepare for a shift to electric vehicles. The effort is ongoing and GM hopes it will soon include more utilities nationwide.

The announcement came Monday night at the Plug-in 2008 Conference in San Jose, Calif., on the eve of what is expected to be a series of announcements about the shift toward electric vehicles. High gas prices and plummeting sales is creating more urgency to develop plug-in electric cars such as GM's Chevrolet Volt, due out in 2010.

GM is positioning itself to be the first in the market with its Volt and plug-in electric hybrid version of the Saturn Vue. However, it wants to begin a seamless transition to electric transportation by addressing issues with the utility companies needed to recharge its vehicles.

Among the issues to be surmounted is ensuring safe and convenient vehicle charging, raising public awareness and beginning a dialogue with the local government officials who will be overseeing policy decisions affecting EVs.

"Together with EPRI and the utility companies, we can transform automotive transporation as we know it, and get our nation and the world past oil dependence -- and heading toward a future that is electric," said Jon Lauckner, GM's vice president of global program management.

Besides cutting dependence on foreign oil, the use of electric vehicles would reduce greenhouse gases caused by burning petroleum. However, electricity is generated in part by coal-fired power generating stations, although technology is rapidly developing to contain carbon emissions in this area.

"This collaboration is critical in the development of standards that will lead to the widespread use of electricity as a transportation fuel," said Arshad Mansoor, vice president of EPRI's Power Delivery & Utilization sector.

GM hasn't yet released a price for its Volt, but it's generally thought it will sell for about $35,000. The automaker has been pouring enormous resources into developing the car that will have a 40-mile all-electric range and an onboard generator that will recharge the batteries on the fly.

A glimpse of the changing landscape was provided earlier in the day when Coulumb Technologies announced it had developed a smart charging infrastructure for plug-in vehicles and will begin testing it in San Jose later this year.

It is interesting to think of a day when the electric socket will take the place of the gas station. GM clearly wants to have all the bugs worked out when that day arrives.

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agraham1 says: 1:27 PM, 07.22.08

I am part of a campaign aimed at General Motors to become Green Motors and become a hybrid/electric car manufacturer. Check it out here: http://www.thepoint.com/campaigns/save-general-motors-and-the-planet-at-the-same-time

General Motors is falling apart, losing billions, and in jeopardy of going out of business. If we can convince them that there is a viable market for them taking drastic action to convert their cars and trucks to being the most environmentally efficient in the world, they have nothing to lose by unconditionally embracing the green movement.

Philip Reed says: 2:21 PM, 07.22.08

Their tone is definitely indicating that they "get it" this time. We'll see, and of course it will probably take longer than anyone wants, but the ocean liner might be very slowly changing directions.

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