Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Cars as an Energy Appliance: Tesla as Lead Actor

Tesla EV being charged by a Powerwall battery. Image: Tesla

Randy Bryan

Cars based on gasoline and diesel technology have been refined for over a hundred years, and their design and costs are projected to stay level or trend up. But, on the side, there is growing acceptance of global warming issues that combustion cars only make worse.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are considered a revolutionary technology even though cars designed to run on an electric motor, and the use of batteries are concepts that pre-date combustion engines. Now that global warming issues make combustion cars a too-costly luxury, clean electric technology with ever-expanding innovations in electronic components and battery improvement (largely ignored for a hundred years, compliments of the oil and car industries) are now coming faster than predicted. This means better cars that cost less, have lower fuel and maintenance costs (one-half to one third of combustion cars) and, now, it may be possible for EV owners to generate revenue when the car is idle.

Tesla is setting the standard to which all car makers are now being compared. Little Tesla. Consider: 1. Tesla is now making a profit on their electric cars, where all the other car makers, still manufacturing EVs to meet mandated quotas, remain years away from profiting on their EVs. 2. Tesla has funded their own fast charger network around the country and the world, whereas other car makers sit on the fence, waiting for someone else to build this infrastructure. VW Settlement money is a help, but not enough. 3. Tesla cars are now demonstrating that the lower operating costs (fuel and maintenance) for an electric car can deliver better payback to commercial customers even with the higher initial cost of the car. 4. Most significant, Tesla is developing their PowerPak, Powerwall and car batteries as a giant energy buffer to help the utilities better handle power fluctuations. With the US-FERC order 841 (distributed energy storage mandate) being affirmed in Federal court there will be a lot more distributed energy storage coming to our grids, and soon. Tesla is positioned, through their testing in Australia, Vermont and soon in England to share revenue captured in this way with their Tesla car and Powerwall customers

None of the current car companies can offer such benefits to their customers. Imagine buying an electric car at the same price as the equivalent combustion model, with half the fuel and maintenance costs, and in addition, getting paid by the electric utility company when your car battery is idle. Think what this does to the market for new and used combustion cars. Fundamental changes to transportation economics are coming faster than most car manufacturers planned. Look at the current percentage of EVs sold by Tesla versus all other conventional auto makers, and you begin to see how Tesla’s technology lead could play out. Look for Tesla to continue growing, and more partnerships and mergers among the existing manufacturers.

How does this affect New Hampshire? Well, thanks to FERC 841, the NH Public Utilities Commission has to come up with a more open distributed storage plan, and NH companies could participate. Various car companies will introduce more Vehicle to Grid (V2G) capacity, and we can look for more market awareness of using the car for temporary energy – as an energy appliance. These are not next-month predictions, or maybe not even next year. But, looking at the two- to five -year period time frame the effect will be quite noticeable.

Will NH benefit from these changes? Yes, certainly, as every consumer will from better technology. But, will NH prosper by developing and offering new solutions for this new world? And maybe exporting these solutions? But, only if NH adopts policies that encourage early adoption of the technologies so new solutions can be envisioned, made, and sold from here. The replacement of combustion energy with clean electric energy will be among the largest and widest markets in the world this century. Will NH produce solutions, or just consume? We’ll see.

Randy Bryan is one of the co-founders of Drive Electric NH. Bryan has been an advocate for electric cars since 2006. His company, PlugOut Power [formerly ConVerdant Vehicles], has converted vehicles to plug-in hybrids and currently develops and sells inverters that turn electrified cars into emergency generators.

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