3 Keys to the Future of the EV Market

Electric vehicles are growing in popularity, but their future viability is still up in the air.

3 Keys to the Future of the EV Market
Building out the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles is key to making the EV market viable. (Photo courtesy of Oregon DOT/Flickr)
Aaron Stern · January 21, 2013

As electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf gain a foothold in the consumer market, the days of plugging your car into the wall to power up after the evening commute are coming closer to reality.

At an event hosted by Schneider Electric in Chicago last fall, Allen Breeze, senior vice president for Schneider’s power business, sat down to discuss what the future of residential EV charging stations will look like.

Market Potential

Though it is growing, there are a handful of reasons why consumer adoption of EVs isn’t exploding. First, of course, is price. A 2013 Chevy Volt starts at $31,645, almost $10,000 more than a comparable gas-driven vehicle like the Toyota Camry. But price isn’t the only thing restricting the EV market.

The lack of a nationwide infrastructure means drivers can’t yet have confidence they’ll find an energy supply along the way during longer trips. Also, the budding market segment lacks uniformity that would benefit consumers.

“We’ve got to make sure that we have compatibility standards in place so that we have consistency from manufacturer to manufacturer so that when you pull up to an EV supply you know you can plug your vehicle in,” says Breeze.

But as the infrastructure becomes more robust and the cars improve, Breeze says the price points on electric vehicles will drop – and things will really start to change.

“As that price curve starts to go down a bit, I think you will continue to see more and more adoption,” Breeze says.

In-Home Feasibility

Much like any type of major home improvement would, installing an EV charging station in a residential unit will require a permit. But that’s getting ahead of the game a little bit – first consumers will need to consult an electrician or integrator to determine if their homes have the capacity to support a charging station or if they’ll need to upgrade their home’s electrical service. That assessment, and possibly the results of that assessment, offer an opportunity for integrators.

“So if you had an older home that, say, has a 100 amp electrical service that’s completely loaded today, it may require a service upgrade to a larger service because the load you’re talking about is typically a 240 volt, 30 amp load,” Breeze says. “It’s like adding another electric dryer, if you will, inside the home. If you have, though, a larger service and the capacity is there, it’s really no more complicated than an electrician that would come in and run a circuit out to either the exterior of your home or inside your garage, depending on the type of model that you want to get. And then the actual unit would be mounted to the wall and installed and plugged in and ready to go.”

Offsetting the Energy Load

Many current electric car owners also have solar installations in their home, says Breeze. Whether that’s because the average electric vehicle owner has an above-average interest in alternative energy or simply because it’s a good way to mitigate the additional load, Breeze says solar is a great option. And with the wealth of programs that exist to encourage consumers to use alternative energy, putting solar into a home doesn’t have to break the bank.

“Of course, with the incentives that are in place, some with local utilities, some with [municipalities and states] as well as with what’s available federally, you can help offset the cost of that as well for the installation cost.”

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