Jul 22

Live in an Apartment and Want a Volt? Coulomb Technology Aims to Help

 

We have considered for some time the implications of being an apartment dweller and being able to own and drive a Volt. An idea I’ve had is charging meters similar to parking meters. It turns out a Silicon Valley startup called Coulomb has already taken that idea and ran with it, developing a quite interesting model. I had the chance to speak with their VP of business development Mike Harrigan.

Coulomb has developed a charging meter that they call a "smartlet." Users would subscribe to the service and in exchange get a smart card or fob. After parking their Volt near the meter waving the fob would open a chamber. An outlet would be exposed and the user could plug in to charge. The smarlet would be connected to the grid either via 110 or 220 volt lines. It would be able to access the user database and the utility company via a wireless network. The utility company could control flow on a mass scale based on the grids daytime demands.

Mike explains that the smartlet would be configured so the user’s cord could not be removed or stolen or another car be charged from it. There will also be different subscription plans depending whether you wanted to use it during the peak (at work) or at night (in your apartment).

Coloumb would pay rent to parking space owners as well as reimburse them for electric use, their revenue coming mainly from users subscriptions.  Mike notes there are only 54 million garages for 247 million US vehicles.

Coloumb is beginning to work with municipalities to begin installations in municipal parking facilities for now, but its easy to see the possibilities are endless.

Full press release below:

COULOMB TECHNOLOGIES ANNOUNCES NEW SMART CHARGING INFRASTRUCTURE FOR PLUG-IN VEHICLES

Smart Charging Stations, Payment Subscriptions and Utility Grid Management
Target New Market of Plug-In Vehicles

Campbell, CALIF. – July 21, 2008 Coulomb Technologies today announced a smart charging infrastructure for plug-in vehicles. Coulomb has developed a complete solution targeting plug-in vehicles including Extended Range Electric Vehicles, Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles, and Battery Electric Vehicles. Coulomb’s ChargePoint™ Network includes public charging stations, a consumer subscription plan and utility grid management technology for electric utility companies to smooth electrical demands on the grid. The infrastructure solution will be showcased with the Saturn Vue Plug-in Hybrid at the Plug-In 2008 Conference & Exposition July 22-24 in San Jose, Calif. in booth 302.

According to General Motors vice president of global program management, Jon Lauckner “GM is committed to the success of the plug-in vehicles, including Extended Range Electric Vehicles like the future Chevy Volt, and together with infrastructure solutions like that of Coulomb Technologies, we are all moving closer to the commercialization of plug-in vehicles. Intelligent infrastructure technology like Coulomb’s is needed for the rapid adoption of plug-in vehicles and to help address the needs and concerns of drivers, utilities, governments, and parking space owners.”

Coulomb’s ChargePoint Network integrates three unique components into a seamless, scalable, reliable, cost-effective solution. At the edge of the ChargePoint Network are Smartlet™ Charging Stations that are individually controlled through the wireless Smartlet Communications Network and the ChargePoint Network Operating System. Coulomb’s core technology includes the elements required to build and enable a smart charging infrastructure for plug-in vehicles.

1. Smartlet Charging Stations: Perform bi-directional energy metering and control, user authentication, and 802.15.4 wireless local area network technology, which enables a subscription model through communication with a data center.
2. Smartlet Communications Network: Provides a high reliability meshed network using 802.15.4 technology and GSM/GRPS technology to communicate with the Network Operating System for user authentication, access control, energy flow control and energy metering.
3. ChargePoint Network Operating System (NOS): Manages the Smartlet Charging Stations through the Smartlet Communications Network. The ChargePoint Network also provides web portals for subscribers, hosts and utilities. Functions include user authentication, access control, energy flow control, location management, utility company policy administration, user portal, host property portal, utility portal and GPS system interface.

“Major automakers have announced delivery of plug-in vehicles to the U.S. marketplace by 2010. But with 54 million garages for the 247 million registered passenger vehicles in the U.S. today, most consumers do not have a way to charge a plug-in vehicle.” said Richard Lowenthal CEO of Coulomb Technologies. “We have developed a scalable, smart charging infrastructure that provides municipalities and parking lot owners a recurring income stream through public charging stations that are easy to install and maintain. Our complete technology solution also provides electric utility companies a means to control the load that plug-in vehicles put on the grid and a means to compute and implement taxes on electricity as a transportation fuel.”

Coulomb Technologies has two inter-related businesses: a product sales business and a service business. Smartlet Charging Stations are sold to municipalities and parking lot owners as capital equipment in a business-to-business model. Charging access is sold to drivers of plug-in vehicles as a subscription service in a business-to-consumer model. Both the Smartlet Charging Stations and ChargePoint Network Operating System will be available in Q4 2008.

“Through an innovative partnership with Coulomb Technologies, San Jose is demonstrating environmental leadership and fostering the growth of our clean tech businesses,” said Mayor Chuck Reed. “Our goal is to be the first city in the United States to demonstrate and offer opportunities for residents to charge electric vehicles from streetlights and other infrastructure. Doing so will help the City meet its Green Vision goals.”

About Coulomb
Coulomb Technologies, headquartered in Campbell, California offers a family of products and services that provide a smart charging infrastructure for plug-in vehicles. Coulomb’s ChargePoint Network addresses needs of drivers, utilities, governments, and parking space owners. For more information, please visit www.coulombtech.com.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008 at 8:45 pm and is filed under Charging. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

COMMENTS: 111


  1. 1
    Jason M. Hendler

     

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    Jul 22nd, 2008 (8:53 pm)

    Martin Eberhard, founder and former CEO of Tesla Motors, is on Coulomb’s advisory board:

    http://media.cleantech.com/3152/electric-vehicles-spotlight


  2. 2
    Cautious Fan

     

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    Jul 22nd, 2008 (8:58 pm)

    It’s awesome to see how the free market makes these things happen. Coulomb doesn’t care about the environment, they just want to make money. You don’t even need a subsidy. Can you believe it can really work that way!

    It all sounded great until I read the part about taxes. I guess that’s how they get their foot in the door, to promise more money to the government. But please, lets keep the governments greedy hands out of it. Besides, wouldn’t this mean the people without garages pay the taxes while those with garages don’t since they’ll just plug in at home? Let the folks who buy gas pay the tax. That’ll motivate them to switch.


  3. 3
    Texas

     

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    Jul 22nd, 2008 (9:02 pm)

    The thing just doesn’t look rugged enough to be on the streets of America. Can you imagine what kids, criminals, drug addicts, etc. will be doing to these things? They better be bullet proof, have lethal defense systems, and equipped with cameras to help prosecute violators.

    That is why I like the Project Better Place idea of an integrated induction charging station. Just drive up and the electrical and financial connection is made. No cut cords, electricity stealing, vandalism, etc. I think people forget just how brutal American streets are. It’s not always a spring afternoon in Switzerland folks. American streets need to be treated like a war zone.


  4. 4
    omegaman66

     

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    Jul 22nd, 2008 (9:20 pm)

    When I lived in an apartment all I would have had to do would have been to run a short extention car maybe 20 feet. Never had to dodge bullets, call 911, or had anyone in the apartments get their property vandalized. Not everyone lives in a crap hole.


  5. 5
    OhmExcited

     

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    Jul 22nd, 2008 (9:33 pm)

    I’m a fan of Coulomb Tech. and wish them well. And if they need a smart, independent thinking guy in the San Jose area who understands well to wheel emissions and the power industry in general to sit on their advisory board, I’m all ears. :D


  6. 6
    o.jeff

     

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    Jul 22nd, 2008 (9:33 pm)

    In the ideal future world, there will be millions of such “charge-enabled” parking spots. The folks at Coulomb Tech seem to envision this as a subscription model. I sure hope it will be more like the “vending machine model.” If there are 10 different companies creating these charge point networks, then it would be seriously inconvenient to have to have subscriptions with all of the. Much simpler just to swipe a debit card or credit card and use goold ‘ole fashion plastic to buy the next 40 miles!

    o.jeff


  7. 7
    Plug Free Volt

     

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    Jul 22nd, 2008 (9:40 pm)

    Maybe in 2020…

    P.F.V. “Thinking outside the plug”


  8. 8
    Statik

     

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    Jul 22nd, 2008 (9:50 pm)

    Maybe in Pleasantville that fancy light-up metallic green plug doesn’t get ripped off.

    Anything other than a simple orange hardware store special will not survive ‘in the wild’ for very long. What do you figure one of those things would cost from GM? $500?

    Dealers are pretty hard up…you probably find them out there ripping them off, then selling them back to you, lol.


  9. 9
    Bryce

     

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    Jul 22nd, 2008 (9:51 pm)

    Subscribing would indeed be inconvenient. It would be much better to just swipe a credit or debit card and be on your way, that way you could charge at work, while shopping, or doing whatever else. Subscriptions would mean hunting down YOUR companies charging station……that would be a hassle.


  10. 10
    Firefly

     

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    Jul 22nd, 2008 (10:25 pm)

    I’m really not sure whether this is the best solution or not. I think it is an excellent idea, however, as many here have pointed out it makes an easy target for vandalism. Then as Bryce pointed out, maybe a card swipe option. Not just credit cards but debit cards. But then again, living in Alabama where they screw you for more taxes than humanly possible by municipalities, I figure that tax dollars should pay for the charging port infrastructure. Coulomb should make the deals with the municipal government that uses a porttion of the streets and sanitation tax dollars to fund this project. Everyone pays taxes already so that would guarantee the revenue. My only thing is that charging stations should be made as safe from vandalism and theft as possible and that EV parking should be given secondary preference only after handicapped parking. Perhaps that’s a little selfish but I think if you care enough about reducing your carbon footprint, you should get a good parking space.


  11. 11
    Jeff M

     

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    Jul 22nd, 2008 (10:29 pm)

    Arghhhhhhhhh! Quote “…. and a means to compute and implement taxes on electricity as a transportation fuel”

    I hope the congress and the next President implement a ban on such a tax until plug-in EV’s are actually gain enough of a foot hold to impact government budgets due to lost revenue on gasoline sales. Similiar to the ban for taxing the Internet.

    From my understanding my State (NH) already has a tax on EV’s… they don’t get you when you charge it… but factored into the annual vehicle registration fees. In some ways I’d prefer they tax the electricity to recharge instead… would be another reason to to install a home solar and/or wind system!

    Just wait until a major auto maker offers a plug-in capable of being quick charged (in 15 minutes of less) and you’ll see private industry also put up quick charge stations at highway rest stops, malls, etc.

    Also can’t wait to see the first major hotel chain advertising free overnight charging as an incentive!


  12. 12
    Jeff M

     

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    Jul 22nd, 2008 (10:37 pm)

    Texas… the EV-1 and I believe some of the other EV’s available when the ZEV mandate still had teeth were charged by plugging in an inductive charging paddle. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inductive_charging


  13. 13
    nasaman

     

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    Jul 22nd, 2008 (10:53 pm)

    The photo at the top reminded me of our recent previous topic on the number & placement of the Volt’s plug-in locations. Unlike in this photo, most parallel parking in North America results in the passenger side being at the curb —thus sockets should be as shown, but on BOTH sides.


  14. 14
    OhmExcited

     

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    Jul 22nd, 2008 (11:01 pm)

    Good point. The car is parked on the wrong side of the road in the photo. More reason to put the charge ports in the front area of the car on both left and right.


  15. 15
    Joe

     

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    Jul 22nd, 2008 (11:21 pm)

    I believe the Volt will have software which will communicate with the electric companies software which will then make it possible for the Volt owner to passively transmit their electric account number through the power line, irregardless which outlet used. The electric company would then know how much electricity used and would bill the owner accordingly through their regular monthly bill. I think this is the way GM will go. This way any Volt owner could plug at any ac outlet with permission, and get bill through their regular monthly bill.


  16. 16
    Robert.V

     

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    Jul 22nd, 2008 (11:25 pm)

    “not everyone lives in a crap hole”

    ROFL!!!


  17. 17
    Grizzly

     

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    Jul 22nd, 2008 (11:29 pm)

    o. jeff #6

    “In the ideal future world, there will be millions of such “charge-enabled” parking spots. The folks at Coulomb Tech seem to envision this as a subscription model. I sure hope it will be more like the “vending machine model.”

    *** *** ***

    Correct. Not only does the “subscription” model resemble that socialistic PBP disaster, it is yet another business model that hopes to lasso customers into a form of contract when in fact it’s not necessary.

    You are correct, and hopefully good honest competition will result in more of a vendor type transaction where accross-the-street competing charging stations will have to earn your business.


  18. 18
    Hous Volt Pharteen

     

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    Jul 22nd, 2008 (11:51 pm)

    Wow, this is for real. GM, this time you hit the target head on.
    Wow!


  19. 19
    Kent Lue

     

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    Jul 22nd, 2008 (11:55 pm)

    Good idea for those who park on the street. I’ll be charging my Volt in my garage at night during off-peak rates while my 27 solar panels generate a lot of credit for me during the peak times.


  20. 20
    Hous Volt Pharteen

     

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    Jul 22nd, 2008 (11:57 pm)

    #15, I hope that is the way they are heading to. Imagine I stop by your house, charge my volt in your house at no cost to you, while watching the yankees beating the red sox. NIce, and I thought we were only getting worst as a nation, but one company is making a different and that is an American company…Great job Big Blue…GM.


  21. 21
    Mark F

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (12:15 am)

    I live in a condo tower and park my car in its underground parking garage. I would much rather have my parking space wired with a charger so I could charge my car at night. Has there been any ideas of the costs and infrastructure needed to wire residential parking garages for EV and plug-in hybrids?


  22. 22
    ThombDbhomb

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (12:38 am)

    Companies are positioning to capitalize on automobile electrification. That makes a shift from ICEs seem more real. Let’s hope for the best.


  23. 23
    Apt Dweller

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (12:51 am)

    Question: Why to they call them Apartments when they are all together ???

    I have lived in many apartment complexes over the years and I think you will have to make charger hookup BULLETPROOF. People are coming/going every 6 months and don’t give a darn about property in apartments. Even speed bumps don’t survive in apartment areas very long.


  24. 24
    Anticipation

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (1:02 am)

    I can’t wait to get a jolt from my volt.
    At least some people are getting some cool joules from testing those volt mules. OMG, I am a poet and didn’t know it.


  25. 25
    Jason C

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (1:49 am)

    #3 Texas

    I guess I’m glad I don’t live in Texas. No wonder you all want to have your guns!

    It would be cool if you could just drive over a charging station and not have to worry about all the wires. probably too much to hope for.


  26. 26
    A K 47

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (3:16 am)

    You might as well put a bullseye on those charging stations. Target Practice for sure. Definitely in Tejas, no doubt.


  27. 27
    omegaman66

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (3:46 am)

    Bad news people! I just got word that the ‘Big Oil Companies’ have put a stop to any kind of charging station for apartments. ;)


  28. 28
    mmcc

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (3:59 am)

    #19 Kent
    That’s the direction I’m heading however the current price of PV is still a bit steep for me. My budget for PV is only about $10k which at today’s prices would only get me about a 2kw grid-tie system. Nanosolar claims they will start selling their panel in 2009 at around $1/watt which should enable one to purchase a 7 or 8 kw system, complete with inverter, for around $10k.


  29. 29
    Darius

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (4:09 am)

    Really no sense concerning taxes.


  30. 30
    TED in Fort Myers

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (4:50 am)

    I do not subscribe to cable TV either. No subscription but only user fees. Think vending machine. Yes bill by the power company. I like the thinking outside the box. Go Volt Go GM. My stock is going up up up. TED


  31. 31
    Voltik

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (5:16 am)

    Now this has became scarey…. I can see the power company having control of when I can and when I can’t charge my Volt… then what will be next will my computer soon be asking if it can have power to turn on?

    Can someone explain why this is such a big problem when most of the recharges will be over night? Is this not making something simple into something difficult?

    My Green garage is sounding better all the time :)


  32. 32
    Dick G.

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (5:27 am)

    Not for nothing, but we have 9 carpenters building apartments in the Buffalo N.Y. area, (one of the worst spots in the U.S. for solar energy). We are off the grid…2 weeks ago we replaced our gasoline generator with a $16,000.00 solar wind unit that is supplying electric to the 9 carpenters framing the 2…. 10 unit buildings. The system is working and working well, saving our company and the environment 4.2 gal. of gasoline each day !!!!!…….Our next mission garages….SOLAR-WIND GARAGES…..For parking and charging these new VOLTS……GO GM


  33. 33
    Voltik

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (5:39 am)

    #32 Dick

    YES YES YES This is the direction we need to be going….

    Great keep us posted on progress of the Solar-Wind Garages.

    Gooooooooooo GM
    Gooooooooooooooo Volt


  34. 34
    RB

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (6:21 am)

    I’m not planning to buy a car that has to ask the power company, via some unknown communication system, whether or not my car will be allowed to charge. I’m interested in a car that can be charged when I want to charge it. The power company can influence my decision by setting the rate. If the car requires the power company’s permission to decide to charge, obtained via a flakey communication system, then I think of that car as having a fatal flaw. I’d rather stick with gas.

    It’s too bad that we are driven to smother the electric car baby because extremists are so afraid of problems that have never happened and that no one has yet to describe in any detail. Just when, where, and by how much will electric cars be overloading the power grid?


  35. 35
    Firefly

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (6:28 am)

    #34 RB

    That’s why I plan to install a PV system on my home. At least then I don’t have to ask the sun for permission to charge my car.


  36. 36
    Dave G

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (6:36 am)

    I like that Coulomb Technology is working to solve the charging problem for apartment dwellers. That’s great. It will help make the Volt available to everyone who wants one.

    But to be clear, we don’t need charging stations for the Volt and other E-REVs to go mainstream. Most people live in homes or other places where they can plug in right now. There’s probably 100 million potential Volt customers like this in the U.S. alone. So the availability of additional charging ports won’t affect Volt or other E-REV sales in any major way.

    The main thing that will block mass adoption is the price. Hybrid versions of regular cars (e.g. Camry Hybrid, Civic Hybrid) have been dismal. It’s pretty clear that most car buyers are not willing to pay more to save gas. GM needs to work on getting the Volt price down.


  37. 37
    RB

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (6:39 am)

    #31 Voltnik #35 Firefly

    I’m afraid that the software in your Volt will not allow your Volt to be charged from your solar panels or in your garage. It will not have received the right permission code from an authorized electric utility, nor will it have received the coded electronic receipt for the necessary tax payment. To charge your own Volt, you will have to set up an authorized data center :)


  38. 38
    Rashiid Amul

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (6:47 am)

    #6, o.Jeff. Well said.


  39. 39
    kent beuchert

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (6:50 am)

    The idea of a PV system at home strikes me as useless – nor necessary – anyone can charge their Volt from any outlet – and
    exactly how can a commuitng Volt use a bunch of solar panels onyour roof at home?
    I see that Coulumb has latched on to the idea that only 54 million
    garages exist. But that’s pretty misleading – it comes nowhere close to counting teh actual number of drivers who can plug in. At our condo for example, outlets are already being planned for our 200 parking spaces underground – and there is no need for anything as elaborate as Coulumb’s charging station. The cost of installation is pretty small. Mant townhouses have their own parking space right in front of their residence – it’s no big deal to run a write underground and terminate it at a lockable outlet box next to the space. And many houses either have carpoerts or drieways closeto the house – they don’t need any garage to plug there car in. Also is the likelihood that many office buildings will have outlets available, which almost eliminates the need for an employee to even have the ability to plug-in at home. Ditto for outlets at shopping centers –
    Japan’s largest shopping retailer/mall operator is already starting to plan outlets for al his malls and grocery stores, another place where those without access to an outlet at their house can find some juice.
    It’s also not true that suddenly the country will be swamped with a bunch of plug-in cars – and I’m sure that those early adopters are far more likely to be in a position to recharge their Volt at their house. It’s always good to get an early start in planning, but I don’t think these early ideas are necessarily going to be the best that we
    arrive at over time. I think these are being planned with the idea in mind that the Volt driver is rather incapable of figuring anything out
    with respect to electricity. True for many, no doubt, but not true overall.


  40. 40
    Ric_LV

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (7:12 am)

    I think it’s better to aim for the customers with their own houses and garages first and in the meantime develop safe charging stations with fast chargers. The hard task still is to develop safe connectors as they would have to coupe with hundreds of amps and volts and powerful chargers that everyone could use. As for batteries, it is already technically possible to charge certain batteries at about 10 minutes, there just aren’t any practical connectors or chargers to do this. But when it is all developed, the fast chargers could be placed next to gas tanks. To get oil companies involved and interested, the fast chargers should be exclusively available only to gas stations. And then it is truly the death of the gasoline car.


  41. 41
    Rashiid Amul

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (7:25 am)

    RB, #37. Funny, but very very scary. Being in IT, it would be so so easy to program the Volt that way.


  42. 42
    brad

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (7:38 am)

    I live in an apartment now, I don’t plan to still be in it when I get my Volt but if I had my Volt now there would be no problem with me running an extension cord to the car. I wouldn’t worry too much about people messing with it. However I really think their idea is really good. Soon you’ll see them at shops, malls and peoples jobs. Great idea. We really need to invest in a better grid though. Now is the time.


  43. 43
    Brad G

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (7:39 am)

    ONCOR, the electrical delivery company in Texas has announced they are going to start reading the meters through the electric lines. If all the three electric grids go to this system then you could plug in your Volt anywhere and the charging cost would only hit your electric bill.


  44. 44
    charley497

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (7:47 am)

    RB, stop giving big brother Ideas.


  45. 45
    Brad G

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (7:48 am)

    As the automobile industry switches from gas to electric the infrastructure and electrical codes will follow. Parking places in office garages will be retro fitted with plugs at each space. Homebuilders will be required to put one 220 plug in each garage space just like the code now states one 110 plug for each space. Remember just 50 years ago most homes did not have dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, central airconditioning, etc.


  46. 46
    maharguitar

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (8:03 am)

    It seems unlikely to me that the Volt will communicate with the power company through the power lines. The Volt will be out in 2 years and there is no way that the entire US grid could define a standard and implement it in that amount of time. Maybe some time in the future this will be done but I doubt it.

    Communicating over power lines doesn’t work very well. Transformers are low pass filters and tend to block high frequency signals, for example. The few areas that tried to offer broadband internet access through the power system gave up.

    I also doubt that the power companies will prohibit peak period charging. They’ll just charge more for it. Many areas don’t have time of service pricing. We also don’t have any electric cars either so no one really needs it. As more cars become available, the power companies will adapt. So will the apartment houses. First, one guy will get a plug-in and he’ll run an extension cord. Then a second will do it. Then the apartment owner will install charge boxes.

    Units like the one described above will start showing up in certain areas like municipal parking lots and those lots will charge more for parking because they will be the best place for electrics to park. The lot down the street will then install them to try to get some of that premium pricing. Soon, they’ll all have them.

    Putting boxes on city streets will probably require something like a regulated monopoly like the cable companies. You can’t have dozens of companies tearing up the streets to install competing boxes. Well, you can but I doubt that most city governments will like the idea much. In fact, the city might install them themselves.

    The first parking lot boxes may have subscriptions but I don’t think that will really work. Swiping your credit/debt card is more viable and would not force you to park in a Coulomb lot instead of an Acme lot. I guess they’ll probably have both and offer a discount for subscribers.

    Protecting from power theft would be pretty straight forward. Once charging starts, the connection cannot be broken. If it is, you’ll need to re-swipe your card. That way someone can’t unplug your car and plug in theirs.


  47. 47
    Gary

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (8:07 am)

    “Mike explains that the smartlet would be configured so the user’s cord could not be removed or stolen or another car be charged from it.”

    But what’s to stop some idiot from yanking the plug out of the volt? Or simply cutting the cable? Until it becomes widespread with stations everywhere, public charging is probably going to be an iffy proposition.


  48. 48
    maharguitar

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (8:22 am)

    #Gary 47 – Vandals messing with the cord.

    Nothing will stop someone from yanking out the cord or cutting it. Just like there is nothing to stop them from slashing your tires or putting sugar in your gas tank.

    The most likely scenario, in my opinion, is someone unplugging your car to plug in theirs because there is a shortage of plugs. They pay for their charge but you’ll only find out when you get back to your car that you don’t have a charge. This is probably solvable too. Something like a locking gas door covering the charging port. You open the door, plug in the connector, and close the door. A slot in the door is big enough for the cable but not the connector so the cable can’t be pulled out without reopening the door. What will the city do if they have to tow your car? Easy. They’ll cut the cord and charge you for it when you get your car from the impound lot.


  49. 49
    Jason M. Hendler

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (8:26 am)

    I like Coulomb’s approach. When would-be theives know that their vehicle won’t be charged when it is plugged in, they won’t bother messing with someone else’s vehicle.

    If you use a credit card approach, once payment is authorized, the charge would go anywhere, so theives would target those systems, instead of Coulomb’s.


  50. 50
    Cautious Fan

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (8:29 am)

    The problem of vandalism is a little overblown. Cars are currently vulnerable. People can steal your wheels, your gas, windshield whipers, etc. It happens but it’s rare. Similarly, charging stations don’t need to be vandal proof. Its cheaper to fix the ones broken by vandals than to make them all vandal proof (you can’t).

    A simple charging lock would be an electromagnet thats disengaged when the doors are unlocked. No moving parts and large tolerances on mating. Many conventional doors in commercial buildings have electromagnetic locks. They’re cheap and with a flip of the switch you can turn them off or on.


  51. 51
    Cire

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (8:57 am)

    I don’t know about you guys, but I wont be parking my volt where people would normaly vandalize my car. In fact I wont park any car in these places, though I can see people unplugging other people’s cars on occasion, or stealing power. Stealing power will probably be the big one, I know people on this forum always talk about stealing their neighbors power to charge their volt.


  52. 52
    Arch

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (9:18 am)

    #46maharguitar

    Now I do not know how it works in the city but out here in the boondocks my electric company reads my electric meter from the office. It even has its own IP address.

    Take Care
    Arch


  53. 53
    Fahrvergnugen Fanboy

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (9:24 am)

    “If you use a credit card approach, once payment is authorized, the charge would go anywhere, so theives would target those systems, instead of Coulomb’s.”

    How about, once the connection is broken even momentarily the power shuts off until another credit-card swipe?


  54. 54
    Rashiid Amul

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (9:27 am)

    Coulomb’s idea is not good. The boxes need to work like a vending machine. But in this case a credit/debit card. I like
    Maharguitar’s #46 idea about Coulomb doing this and offering a discount to subscribers. This way, Coulomb can accept anyone who wants to plug in regardless of if they belong to Coulomb.


  55. 55
    Aspherical

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (10:01 am)

    I am not necessarily fully supporting Coulomb’s approach and I appreciate the concerns given in this post, but hey, it’s a start. It gives apartment dwellers (like me) more options who are very interested in the Volt (of course, if my city offers such a service).


  56. 56
    john1701a

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (10:04 am)

    >> The main thing that will block mass adoption is the price. Hybrid versions of regular cars (e.g. Camry Hybrid, Civic Hybrid) have been dismal.

    Camry-Hybrid was introduced April 2006. The 8 months of sales for that year in the United States came to 31,341. For all of 2007, sales here were 54,477. This year, sales continue at that rate… reaching the 100,000 milestone here 2 years after debut.

    How will you judge Volt sales?


  57. 57
    N Riley

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (10:15 am)

    #46 maharguitar

    Yours is the most reasoned, well thought out and most likely to happen comment of the day. Great job.


  58. 58
    Nick

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (10:21 am)

    Wow my 1st post yesterday made the headlines today : )

    http://www.gm-volt.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1125


  59. 59
    Cole

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (10:23 am)

    I don’t think you have to worry about the power company sending a signal to the volt so you can charge it at somebody else’s house. I work for a power company in the Midwest, and I can tell you there are many fragmented small power providers out there. Not all of them will want to, or be able to participate. Requiring some sort of signal would be a fatal flaw on GM’s part. They need to make sure the volt can be plugged into any standard 110 or 220 volt outlet and charge. Leave the “signal” business up to the Coulomb type people. Most small power companies don’t even have automatic meter reading yet. Rural power companies will be reluctant to install an expensive communication system.

    Also, any program my company would create that allowed the volt to charge when we wanted instead of the end user would be completely voluntary. You would get a discounted rate for participating. There’s also lots of talk among power companies about Vehicle to Grid (V2G) technology, which would also be an voluntary thing the end user could participate in.

    GM doesn’t want to rule out any potential customers.


  60. 60
    GM Volt Fan

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (10:37 am)

    I hope they test and retest these charging stations BEFORE they deploy them. Get Underwriter Laboratories to torture test them for ANY conceivable problems. I want these charging stations to be very reliable, convenient and durable. They need to make them “industrial strength” … not some cheapo plastic box that will get torn up by hooligans in a month or two. Coulomb ought to design them to be MORE durable than public phone booths.

    For the non-apartment complex locations, they ought to put them in well lit areas where they can be monitored by somebody if possible. Like maybe in a parking lot of Wal Marts or other convenience stores … separated from the gas pumps of course.

    I think it would be great if they designed the charging stations to have both 110V and 220V capability for the quick charging batteries. Coulomb needs to think ahead to try to find out what kinds of electric cars will be on the market in 10+ years. Maybe you could use your smart card or fob that has your car make and model information on it and it will automatically adjust the charging station so it will feed juice to your type of electric car in the optimal way.


  61. 61
    N Riley

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (10:54 am)

    I don’t see any charging strategy by the electric companies or the automakers for the foreseeable future. That, of course, may change. It will take years for a strategy to form and be adopted. There are just too many variables with all of the different electric companies around.

    I see nothing wrong with the charging stations being developed by Coulomb. They will work great for most of the people who decide to purchase vehicles that are strictly BEV’s. That will give those drivers the option of extending their excursions away from their home garages or power cords. It is a step in the right direction. We need these first steps and now is the time to get started.


  62. 62
    Tagamet

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (11:03 am)

    Everything that helps plugins become ubiquitous is progress.
    JMO,
    Tag


  63. 63
    Tagamet

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (11:23 am)

    BUT LET’S GET THE VOLT’S WHHEELS ON THE ROAD ASAP!


  64. 64
    noel park

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (11:37 am)

    #22 ThombDbhomb:

    Our local NPR station did a real nice report on the entire Plug-In 2008 conference this morning. It made the coming of the electric car seem like a completely done deal. Very encouraging.

    #62 & #63 Tagamet:

    Amen and Amen. You have stated the whole thing in a nutshell. Thanks.


  65. 65
    Kent

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (11:43 am)

    #39 – “The idea of a PV system at home strikes me as useless – nor necessary – anyone can charge their Volt from any outlet – and
    exactly how can a commuitng Volt use a bunch of solar panels onyour roof at home?”

    A PV system at home generates electricity. The Volt uses electricity. Electricity costs money when buying off the grid. PVs generate free electricity from the sun. My PV system on my roof saves me about $2,500 a year, which will pay for itself in 8-9 years. It’s a “no-brainer” for me!


  66. 66
    Tim

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (11:44 am)

    Wow this will be great for the Volt and the electric Mini Cooper coming out next year!


  67. 67
    Mike D

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (12:17 pm)

    #3 Texas

    You think the charging stations will be vandalized? Imagine when parking meters were proposed. “You mean to say there will be little stands full of money all night long unsupervised?!?!” And how often do you hear about parking meter break-in’s? or parking meter break ins being a PROBLEM. I can see kids going around unplugging cars at worst, but not vandalizing the stations. “Hey look! it’s an outlet of locked plug sockets attached to that telephone pole! Let’s go vandalize it!” All the things AROUND those stations, like mailboxes, will be much more appetizing targets for vandals.

    Which leads me to two ideas.

    GM: make the cord on the volt easily and cheaply replaceable if cut with wire cutters or damaged, that’ll be happening more often than expected i think.

    Coulomb/GM: Make these sockets have the car alarm go off if the car’s cord is unplugged and the person does not first wave their fob in front of it. So one wave to plug it in, one wave to UNPLUG it, otherwise the alarm goes off. That would keep someone from going around unplugging cars all night long


  68. 68
    noel park

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (12:23 pm)

    #67 Mike D:

    Remember “Cool Hand Luke”, LOL?

    I dunno though. People around here go to awesome lengths to steal copper wire these days. I can just see someone with a shopping cart and a pair of bolt cutters bopping down the street stealing the little pigtails from all of the electric cars to the plug in boxes. What gage wire would it be? Maybe they’ll get electrocuted, if there’s any justice.

    Somebody suggested armoring the cables a la the old pay phone handset wires. Maybe that would work.


  69. 69
    brad

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (12:25 pm)

    I will be very happy when we have to worry about people stealing our power to plug in their cars. This would mean that plug in cars are very widespread. If we are lucky this will be a problem in 5 years or less. Lets keep our fingers crossed. Go GM! Go Volt!


  70. 70
    I M Thief

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (12:58 pm)

    Hope those charging stations don’t contain copper, a valuable resource for thieves. Copper is routinely removed from lamp posts, air conditioners, power lines, phone lines etc. and turned in to recycling centers who pay top dollar for copper. The latest trend is to remove the sqaure plugs on top of fire hydrants, they are worth more than $5 apiece. Also there has been a huge run on catalytic converters (CC). We (I mean THEY) can remove them in mall parking lots in less than 2 minutes in the middle of the day. The Platinum in CC are worth some good coin. I wonder how much that Volt battery pack is worth to my local recycler ?? (hmmm)


  71. 71
    Len

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (1:03 pm)

    I can see it now… some stupid criminal electrocutes himself and the family sues the owner and GM. We better put GFIs on the lines.


  72. 72
    Dave G

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (1:18 pm)

    #40 Ric_LV says: ”
    I think it’s better to aim for the customers with their own houses and garages first and in the meantime develop safe charging stations with fast chargers. The hard task still is to develop safe connectors as they would have to coupe with hundreds of amps and volts and powerful chargers that everyone could use.”
    ————————————————————————————–
    I don’t believe fast charging stations will ever catch on. Not only do you need special cables and connectors, but each electrical filling station will need batteries – lots of them. The grid won’t support the bursts of power to quick charge cars, so the filling stations would need to have big batteries to even this out.

    IMHO, the future will bring 2 things:
    1) More vehicles like the Volt, with all electric range increasing toward 100 miles.
    2) Viable bio-fuels, particularly bio-diesel from algae, and E85 from switch grass.

    With these 2 things, fast electrical filling stations won’t be necessary. In fact, these 2 things won’t require much in the way of new infrastructure at all. Switching gas pumps to bio-diesel or E85 is pretty easy. If everyone charges their car at night, then our current electrical grid will handle the job.


  73. 73
    Rashiid Amul

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (1:23 pm)

    71 Len says,
    I can see it now… some stupid criminal electrocutes himself and the family sues the owner and GM. We better put GFIs on the lines.

    —————–
    No. We need a reward system set up to reward the owner and GM for getting rid of a criminal who is a drain on society.


  74. 74
    Rashiid Amul

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (1:25 pm)

    # 70 I M Thief says,

    I wonder how much that Volt battery pack is worth to my local recycler ?? (hmmm)

    ——————-
    I don’t think it will be that easy. If I recall correctly, the pack will weigh around 700 pounds and be tied down.


  75. 75
    scott

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (1:27 pm)

    My goodness people! Talk about over thinking a problem. It reminds me of to old saying, “Eventually you have to shoot the engineers and ship the product”. Look, it’s just a vending machine for power. Put in a few coins and get a certain amount of power. Or, swipe you card and let it charge at some price per kilowatt-hour. When you come back, unplug and go home. It’s the KISS method that people will accept. Make it complicated and NO ONE WILL USE IT.

    As far as vandals go, give me a break. The box has its own security system built in. It’s called live voltage!


  76. 76
    Tagamet

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (1:37 pm)

    “The first thing we do is shoot all the lawyers”.
    Henry VIII – Wm. S

    Be well,
    Tag


  77. 77
    TOM M

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (1:40 pm)

    Here is another option available to us if we could ever get GM to sell us the cars. Honda has it already.

    http://www.autobloggreen.com

    Tom


  78. 78
    Tagamet

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (1:52 pm)

    Tom M
    It’s nice that more options will be available, but for ubiquity we’ll need something that looks like a car.
    JMO,
    Tag


  79. 79
    JES

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (2:07 pm)

    Dn’t have time to read all the comments, but in responce to #9, Bryce….

    Having to use a credit card for charging these is kinda like using a credit card for toll booths. It is cheaper for the buisness to have an account for you that to have credit card charges for .25 to $1 charges.


  80. 80
    TOM M

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (2:07 pm)

    Tagament #78

    Try Honda Civic CX NGV it is available now for $24,590 plus tt&l.

    333 miles to the tank with 28 to 34 mpg.

    Tom


  81. 81
    Tennessee

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (2:20 pm)

    Nissan and the glorious state of Tennessee (is that Al Gore country ?) just announced a deal to hook-up Nashville with CHARGING STATIONS for future EVs !

    http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080723/AUTO01/807230330/1148

    It’s coming folks. This EV stuff may be an unstoppable force.


  82. 82
    Ed M

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (2:39 pm)

    Rashiid Amul and Len, #s71 and 73

    Love your sense of humor

    Dave G #72

    Never say never, I happen to be of the opposite opinion. If we put our minds to it like the Wright Brothers, it will happen. There’s a ways to go yet, in developing an electrical grid and fast charging, long range batteries. We’re just getting started after a 100 year siesta.


  83. 83
    Ed M

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (2:48 pm)

    The problem I see with this whole concept of electric vs combustible fuels, gas has served us very well and with the advancement in technology, cars are pretty much hassle free.
    It’s my guess that electric cars will not be hassle free for sometime, but they will eventually get there.
    When gas vehicles first showed up there were no roads, filling stations, competent repair shops etc. Driving was a big pain compared to riding a horse, but we got there and we’ll get there again.


  84. 84
    Jackson

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (2:49 pm)

    I was the one suggesting armored cables in the last thread, noel park (#68); but seeing that picture at the top makes me want to add: Is that plug Coulomb’s, or GM’s?

    You’re walking down the street at night ’cause you can’t buy gas, or afford a Volt, you’re not amounting to much and think life’s so unfair; that no one cares. So you see some rich guy’s Volt with this right-angle stick-out plug at a parking space. “@#$% you, rich dude,” you say, lift your boot, and come down with all your might on that clunky, stick-out-the-side plug and break the socket right out of the car.

    Those of you who think that vandalism isn’t a problem are likely kidding yourselves.

    No, you can’t stop a really determined vandal. However, you can minimize a lot of it by dealing with some of the “asking for it” stuff up front: like making a connector that sits paralell to the car (with the actual pins on the side) rather than stick out as an inviting lever to pound or bend. Armor the cable, yes; but how about a heavy-duty flange on each side of the socket so that a blow won’t bend pins or break housings in the car. Alternatively, if an electromagnet is used to hold the connector on, it should retract the active contacts inside when power is interrupted.

    I’ve heard for several years that soon we’d be able to pay for things at vending machines using our cellphones. I haven’t seen this happen yet, but it would add a great benefit for a charging station: it could keep you informed of what’s happening with/to your charge/car with text messages. There wouldn’t be any fragile swiping sensor on the outside of the box.

    If armored cables are a no-go, how about a GM-style connector/adaptor that you can plug a standard 3-prong into? If GM won’t make this available, some aftermarket outfit will.


  85. 85
    Johnny Appleseed

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (2:54 pm)

    If I can control the Charging Station via my iPod or iPhone than I am all for this technology, otherwise it may just be too difficult for me to adopt it.


  86. 86
    Van

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (3:00 pm)

    The plug in area will need to be isolated from the con artists who roam our public areas. You know why all the speed bumps have painted markings to identify them? Because if it is not painted, I can claim I tripped on it and hurt my back. You cannot believe the pain and suffering that speed bump has caused me. Now can you imagine the lawsuit (it was dark and I tripped on your cord that was not marked with nighglow tape and properly tapped to the ground so the tripping hazard was eliminated.) That is why I see a parking port in our future. :)


  87. 87
    Dave G

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (3:26 pm)

    #82 Ed M says: “Never say never, I happen to be of the opposite opinion. If we put our minds to it like the Wright Brothers, it will happen. There’s a ways to go yet, in developing an electrical grid and fast charging, long range batteries…”
    ————————————————————————————–
    The Wright Brothers is a good example. By 1910, they had their first passengers in flight. By the 1960s, the concept of passenger airlines for the masses had become mainstream. A lot of this had to do with the airline infrastructure, in this case airports, that took a long time to build out.

    Similarly, our gas & diesel filling station infrastructure took about 50 years to build out.

    So my point is that changes to infrastructure take a long, long time to happen. And this is when there is a clear advantage to force the infrastructure change. When I compare fast electric filling stations to E85 or bio-diesel filling stations, I don’t see a clear advantage to the user either way. Both will end up being cheaper that gas. Both have the capability to be carbon neutral. But for the filling station owner, the advantage to E85 or bio-diesel is clear – no new infrastructure investments! That’s a big deal.

    As an example, I saw a CNN report recently that showed many rural gas station owners going out of business because they couldn’t afford to change their pumps to sell at prices of $4/gallon or higher. The older pumps force the dollar digit to one of two numbers, and they had just changed the pumps for $2.00 – $3.99 gas a year or so earlier. Bottom line: any changes to the infrastructure is a big deal.

    So that’s why I like the combination of plug-in hybrids and bio-fuels. There are no significant changes to the infrastructure with this solution. Liquid filling stations exist now. The grid we have now will work for tens of millions of plug-in cars. With this approach, we can quickly transition our transportation sector to the following power mix:
    ~50% electricity
    ~25% E85 from switch grass
    ~25% bio-diesel from algae

    That’s why I like the Volt – because it runs on electricity, gas, or E85.


  88. 88
    Dave G

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (3:42 pm)

    How many apartment and condo parking lots have assigned parking spaces?

    If you have a parking space that’s just for you, then the solution is pretty easy. A simple mechanical key will do the job. Any disruption in the connection would shut off the power, and a key would be required to re-enable power. The only issue left would be vandals. Someone can always cut the charging cable for spite. They can also puncture the tires for the same reason.

    Could anyone make a guesstimate as to what percentage of apartments and condos have assigned parking spaces?


  89. 89
    Jackson

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (4:32 pm)

    I don’t believe this proposal has anything to do with “quick charging;” just a secure means of plugging in like you would at home (and get billed for it, of course).

    I don’t see quick charging happening unattended, or for quite some time, as batteries must be developed and certified as being capable of it without loss of service life, and the beefed up connections for all that amperage wouldn’t be something a casual parking driver should fool with.

    The power connection for the quick-charge station itself to the grid seems pretty unlikely as well, so the need for some means of power storage seems obvious: but it would probably be something like a tractor-trailer-size sodium sulfur battery of the sort being developed to balance the variable output of a wind generator (if that works out, the burgeoning wind energy market will lock down supplies of these for a decade or more).

    Still, we needn’t be constrained to any existing paradigm. Perhaps a fast-charge station could be integrated with a parking deck (in a city). Such a hefty power connection could be part of the initial investment, and more likely there than out in the country. Since we’re talking about the future, let’s imagine a system of overhead rails that allow a charging robot to move through the garage, lower an articulated arm with the hefty conductors in it to connect to a car’s high-speed charging port, then move on to the next car after 5 – 10 minutes (or, if you prefer, you drop your car with a valet who takes your car to the charging point, then parks the car ;-) ).


  90. 90
    N Riley

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (4:35 pm)

    Charging on public streets will definitely be hazardous to your vehicle. Our streets are not safe. That goes for most cities and most streets. They may seem safe to most of us during the day time and early evening, but they become a no man’s land at night. Sorry, this old boy won’t be charging mine on the street anytime soon.


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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (4:37 pm)

    And, the plug shown in the above picture belongs to GM’s Saturn Vue. Same type of plug they showed at the introduction of the plug-in Vue.


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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (4:46 pm)

    This EV stuff is without a doubt in my mind a disruptive technology just like the “electrical speech machine” was when Alexander Graham Bell first created it (now known as a telephone). Key features of a disruptive technology are:

    1 – lacks refinement
    2 – has performance problems (because it’s new)
    3 – appeals to a limited audience

    All three of these can be applied to the Electric Vehicle at this point in time.
    The final result of disruptive technology is that it gains a larger audience and marketshare and threatens the status quo.


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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (4:55 pm)

    I don’t think it takes a genius to figure out that the various taxes currently collected by most states on a gallon of whatever it is you’re burning are still going to be needed by those states and will be collected from either the Volt owner (registration or some other method) or other citizens ( EREV tax incentive). To think otherwise would be fuelish. ( my lame attempt at humor-sorry).


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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (5:06 pm)

    #90, Gosh N. Riley. Where do you live that the streets are so bad?

    Perhaps you should start carrying a gun?
    Of course, your idea of staying off the streets is a safer alternative.


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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (5:21 pm)

    What do you want to bet that this is going to cost us the same as if we were driving a normal car at $5.00 a gallon? They now have found a way to screw the driver of the electric car out of $300 a month. What does Mr. Lutz have to say about that?


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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (5:41 pm)

    If there are 54 million garages in the US, it will take a while to produce enough Volts to saturate that market, IMHO. Plus, many of them may be filled with junk, but many (most?) of them are 2 car garages, so the average number of cars garaged must be 1 point something times 54 million. 60 million? 70 million?

    If 200K volts are going to be produced through 2015, there will be plenty of sales opportunities to garage owners/renters for a number of years. By that time this issue will certainly have sorted itself out.

    I will charge at home at night, and at my office during the day. So about 90% of my driving will be electric. If I go on a trip somewhere and find a place to plug in, so much the better. If not, I can live with it.

    It is really great to see all of this high level interest in electric cars, but I don’t think that the lack of this infrastructure will hamper sales of the Volt during the first few years. Now if people really take up pure battery powered vehicles in a serious way, it could be another story.


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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (5:41 pm)

    Randy C. # 95

    Unfortunately, the name of the game is: “Screw the consumer”.


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    RB

     

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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (5:42 pm)

    # Randy C

    There’s no reason to expect use of charging stations to be inexpensive. They will be owned by cities, who will be recoving the costs of buying, installing and operating the stations, and who will be looking to the stations as a revenue source. There are the charges for cell phone connections to operate the communication system. There are the charges to Coulomb, or whomever owns the charging service. And there is the cost of the electricity. One can expect a charge of $5 to $10, at least, for even the smallest charge, e.g. “connection fee”.

    So one might view these stations as one views convenience stores for food — sometimes convenient, but considerably more expensive than regular grocery stores. Probaby that’s the way to think of them — you are paying for the convenience, not the electricity. The question is whether their introduction causes all sorts of ancillary controls and taxes to be added to the process that run up the costs for everyone, all the time, whatever the source of electricity.


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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (6:04 pm)

    92. Clayton

    I’m hoping that EV technology is going to be VERY disruptive to OPEC and Big Oil. I think more and more people are going to like the new electric cars once they see them out on the roads and learn more about them. People won’t care about the oil companies and the status quo … not after the gouging they’ve been doing lately. The oil companies can always go back to selling their oil for lamps and plastics in about 20 years. :) When a better car comes along people eventually want to get one if they can.

    The oil companies won’t be able to force people to buy their gasoline and diesel for too much longer. For starters, because of “electric fuel”, Volt owners might be counting how many gallons of gas (or E85) they have to buy a YEAR and brag about it to their friends. :)

    People will have a CHOICE about what kind of liquid fuel they use to power their cars with … and “that’s a beautiful thing” like Steve Jobs at Apple would say. We might use butanol, methanol, or some other exotic fuel for the Volt’s range extender someday. Argonne National Labs is working on an “omnivorous engine” that will do this.

    http://www.greencarcongress.com/2008/07/argonnes-omnivo.html#more

    That’s what’s great about the E-flex powertrain concept. It’s going to be flexible in a lot of ways. Since most Volt owners won’t have to fill up their tank but once every month or two, they could charge up their Volt and drive to a local “multi-fuel” filling station and choose whatever fuel is cheapest or they just like more for whatever reason. If gasoline is too expensive people won’t buy it. Who cares what the liquid fuel is as long as it runs the range extender efficiently and doesn’t hurt the environment too much. They might even sell liquid fuels in small containers at Home Depot like they do propane. You only need about 3 gallons for your Volt most of the time to deal with your “range anxiety”.

    Eventually, gasoline will probably be more expensive because of a carbon tax since it causes more greenhouse gasses and other pollutants compared to the alternatives. Gasoline will be that “dirty, polluting expensive fuel” that people used back in the Dark Ages of the 20th century for some dumb reason. :)

    The world is going to be “a better place” like Shai Agassi says once the internal combustion engine goes in the dustbin of history altogether.

    http://www.projectbetterplace.com/

    The future is going to be all electric vehicles like the Tesla Roadster. We may have to go through another stage of “range extenders” with hydrogen fuel cells if they can’t come up with high power, high energy density, safe, affordable batteries. If hydrogen from solar/wind electrolysis and the fuel cells gets cheap enough, we might use those for environmental purposes so the electricity for cars isn’t coming from coal plants as much. The hardcore environmentalists will want those hydrogen fuel cell cars until they stop using coal plants as much in their area. The other alternative for them would be to have solar panels on their roof and “garage batteries” to juice up their all electric car or ER-EV.

    One thing is for sure … cars are going to evolve for a good while until we get to good range, good performing, affordable 100% electric cars. Maybe 20-30 years. Another sure thing is that the “electric car age” is dawning and the “oil age” is going to fade away like the horse and carriage and coal fired steam trains.


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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (6:37 pm)

    #92 Clayton M. Christensen says: “This EV stuff is without a doubt in my mind a disruptive technology just like the “electrical speech machine” was when Alexander Graham Bell first created it (now known as a telephone). Key features of a disruptive technology are:

    1 – lacks refinement
    2 – has performance problems (because it’s new)
    3 – appeals to a limited audience”
    ————————————————————————————–
    I would say the EV1 represents the disruptive technology. The Volt seems to be more refined, and with better performance – particularly in terms of total range. So it should have a broader audience. That’s what I’m hoping at least.


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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (6:51 pm)

    Thank you all for the comments on Coulomb Technologies. I’m Mike Harrigan, the VP of Business Development for Coulomb and I’d like to respond to some of the comments on the blog.

    1. Taxes: We believe that it is inevitable that road taxes will be applied to electricity as a transportation fuel as gasoline sales (hopefully) diminish with the advent of plug-in cars. We are providing one potential means of calculating that tax when/if it is levied.

    2. Multiple charge point vendors: We envision a roaming model similar to cell phones. The cost of electricity is pretty low so the transaction cost of using “good old plastic” would be as much or more than that cost of the electricity. Having said that we also have a Central Payment Station in our product plans that allows one-time use.

    3. To #21: one of our key markets is multi-tenant buildings. The chargers can actually provide a revenue stream to the owner’s association based on the use of the charge points.

    4. Several people expressed doubts about allowing the utility company to determine when they can charge. This will be at the choice of the subscriber. The lowest cost subscription is if you are willing to charge only at off-peak times. The next least expensive is if you are willing to be controlled during grid events. There is also a 24/7 plan for those who need it. BTW, many utilities already offer their customers reduced rates based on time of use and/or the ability to turn off air conditioners.

    OK, I only got half-way through and my laptop is almost out of batteries. I’ll continue later. Thank you all for your thoughts and ideas.

    Mike Harrigan


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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (7:03 pm)

    #101 Mike Harrigan

    Thanks for your input. It will help contain rampant speculation.


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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (9:28 pm)

    It’s good to see that some of the Coulomb Technologies.execs are monitoring this site. We’re definiely a very diverse “focus group” (or lack thereof)
    Be well,
    Tag


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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (11:26 pm)

    Mr. Harrigan, you might want to think about a range extender for that lap top.


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    Jul 23rd, 2008 (11:56 pm)

    I always thought theft (not vandalism) would be a big issue with solar panels because they are just screwed on to racking systems, but as of yet, I have not. I guess the common criminal does not know how to use them. LOL!


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    Jul 24th, 2008 (12:01 am)

    Has anyone considered the work involved to implement wired charging stations at street level parking spaces? The sidewalks would all have to be torn up to run the wiring, etc.

    This would be a massive infrastructure cost. Would Coulomb be paying for that?

    In private parking lots, it would be a bit easier, but still quite a bit of work….


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    Jul 24th, 2008 (3:14 am)

    #106 Jim I
    They say they are working on municipal parking facilities for now, so they don’t have to worry about the streets yet. But the streets (streets not the sidewalks, but sidewalks shouldn’t be that much harder to tear up) outside my apartment gets torn up once every few years for repairs anyways, so with municipal support (allowing the tearing up of the sidewalks, not talking about subsidies) the costs shouldn’t be too bad even for sidewalk chargers. The company expects 3-6 years return of capital including installation costs.

    I’m thinking tapping into light poles (which the picture shows and one of the charging station types the company offers) will probably be much easier (and cheaper) if there is a safe way to do it that way (since this is slow charge anyways perhaps the added load wouldn’t be too bad). The installation process for the standalone charger station shouldn’t be much different than that of a street light.


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    Jul 24th, 2008 (4:40 am)

    As for fast charging…

    PROS
    1. It could eliminate the limited range problem in 100% electric cars
    2. No worries about vandalism (as long as the quick charging stations are 24/7 supervised) So you can be sure, that you will always be ready to go and nobody is going to spoil your day.
    3. The habits of the drivers are not changed – they still “refuel” their cars in specific locations. Only this time the fuel is electricity. The spots (stations themselves) are also in the place.
    4. No need for territory-wide infrastructure change. I mean, the quick charging stations don’t have to be built as much as gas stations, because there is still an option to slow-charge the car elsewhere. Therefore, quick charging stations can be placed in more remote areas and at the cities’ edges. As for charging parking lots – this calls for a major changes in almost all apartment buildings, offices and streets, etc. THAT’S expensive. It involves a lot paperwork and working hours. Upgrading some gas stations to quick-charge stations is not so complicated from this point of view.
    5. Forces to improve the grid, which is not a bad thing and should be done anyway. I don’t know how good is the grid in USA right now, but building upgrading should anyways be a good thing as stable power supply should be required in the future.

    CONS

    1. People would be afraid to handle such high power, even if the system is safe
    2. The charging would STILL be slower than refilling a gas tank, which for some customers could be unacceptable
    3. The utility companies could possibly not coupe with the power demand
    4. The utility companies could refuse to upgrade the grid.
    5. Maintenance of the power storage (the trailer sized batteries) in the quick charge stations is an issue.

    As for the batteries that should be fast-charged. They exist! They just have to be tested and certified but that’s ALREADY in progress.
    Check this out:
    http://www.teslamotors.com/blog4/

    (start reading the comments starting from “Purnell wrote on July 7th, 2008 at 6:55 pm” and see what “Roy wrote on July 10th, 2008 at 3:37 pm” answers.)

    Someone mentioned the trailer sized batteries for storage as if it was SOMETHING! Hello! The giant fuel tanks in the gas stations are probably buried right under you when you refuel. That, somehow, doesn’t bother anyone.

    Oh, and one more thing: the fast charging shouldn’t be as cheap as possible. They should put a fairly high price (but still reasonably lower than gasoline) in order to encourage people to slow-charge at home as much as possible and not make long waiting lines.

    But I also understand one thing. These fast charging stations would only be let loose if the automakers decide that only 100% electric vehicles are the real future. So, I think that they have to come to a consensus: What will be the next thing that will turn the wheels of future cars? Electricity, hydrogen, bio-fuel or a mix (hybrids). I think it is very essential to come to this consensus. It would clear the future vision for a lot of people. Just like, when the media format industry finally came to a consensus in the Blu-ray VS HDDVD case.

    Well, I pick 100% electric cars, because I think electricity is a very universal and convenient energy. Easy to transport as well (through wires and cables).


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    Jul 24th, 2008 (7:42 am)

    Texas @ 3

    I think people forget just how brutal American streets are. It’s not always a spring afternoon in Switzerland folks. American streets need to be treated like a war zone.

    I don’t know where you live, but I live in the US and I’ve been parking in a public metered space in an urban area of Maryland every work day for more than 10 years and I can’t ever remember one of the meters being vandalized. In fact, the parking space that I most often park in has probably had the exact same meter for 10 years.


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    Jul 24th, 2008 (8:41 am)

    Texas #3

    Wou must live in South San Antonio !!!

    Tom


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    Jul 24th, 2008 (1:29 pm)

    OK, part 2 of my responses from Coulomb. I think that range extender idea for my laptop is great – just can’t decide on turbo-diesel, fuel cell, or gasoline ;-)

    Most of the comments seem to focus on two things: the subscription service concept and vandalism in it’s many forms.

    Starting with the subscription service, we decided to go with this model for several reasons. One of the primary ones is the idea that we can offer different plans based on your charging needs. If you plan to charge only at night you will pay less for a subscription than if you need to charge during peak hours (noon to 6PM), for example. There is nothing in the technology that prevents paying by the charge using a credit card but putting a credit card transaction device in every unit would drive the price up so we will be offering a central pay station similar to what you sometimes see in newer parking meter systems. Credit card companies charge a fee for each transaction as well as a percentage of the transaction so this will be more expensive than subscribing. If you need to charge outside your own garage every day a subscription will be the way to go. Many people don’t have garages (NYC, for example) and many people will want to “top up” their batteries while at work or shopping. Our approach allows parking property owners to install charge points at a low cost and get their capital investment repaid through the revenue they receive as the charge points are used by subscribers. One of the big advantages for subscribers is their web portal called mychargepoint.com. This is where the subscriber goes to create their account but it also keeps track of where they have charged their cars and how much electricity they have consumed. They can also plan routes and see where charge points are located. If they have a navigation system, the locations will be provided so that they can navigate to an available charge point.

    Regarding vandalism, we agree that it could be an issue. The Coulomb Smartlet (the charge point) has a locking door to protect the 110v socket that is located within. The subscriber key fob unlocks the door so that the plug can be inserted in the socket. The door then closes most of the way (open just enough for cable clearance) and locks so that someone can’t unplug the cable during charging. To unlock the procedure is reversed – the fob is used to unlock the door, the cable is unplugged and the door re-locks. By the way, the socket is not energized until the cable is plugged in and will de-energize if current is interrupted by unplugging from the car or if the cable is severed. The units are robust, similar to parking meters and gasoline pumps which are subject to the same problems of damage whether vandalism or accident. The National Electric Code requires that they be pass laboratory tests by an accredited testing agency such as Underwriter’s Laboratory. Of course, the cables can still be cut by vandals. Also the car manufacturers should be thinking of ways to protect the car side of the cable from being disconnected accidentally or on purpose.

    I hope this answers most of the questions. Please visit the Coulomb Technologies website to learn more about our products and services.