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Tuesday, 13 September 2011

A utility prepares for the impact of plug-in electric vehicles

The Business Advisor Challenge
Sept 12, 2011

Walt Lacklin, vice president of transmission and distribution for UMW Power & Electric, had exited the highway and was just five minutes from home after another 10-hour day. As his mind wandered, it skipped onto a Wall Street Journal article that had been forwarded to him. It said California regulators were proposing a rule that would push for more aggressive sales of all-electric cars. While California was far away from UMW’s service area, such initiatives always moved eastward – and often found their way into federal regulation.

At work, this was the last thing anybody wanted. Charging an electric car in a garage essentially give a residential property a commercial energy profile. Even two or three all-electric cars in the same neighborhood could draw enough power to blow transformers and cause localized blackouts. That brought to mind a second article from just the day before in USA Today: In May alone, Nissan sold more than 1,000 of its all-electric Leaf – doubling total sales from the first four months of the year.

Walt pulled up to the last stoplight before home and wondered who would want such a car. They’re expensive, he thought, and putting one in your garage was like adding the electricity demand of a whole other house.

Walt shook his head. From the corner of his eye, he noticed the low-slung, angular car that had pulled up beside him. Deep maroon. Nice, he thought. He nodded at the other driver – 50-ish in a dark suit.

And then it struck Walt what he was looking at: a Chevy Volt – plug-in electric with a supplemental gasoline engine. He’d never seen one on the road. That’s it, Walt thought. That guy probably lives in the neighborhood; he could be me. This car is coming fast, and UMW is not ready.
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