Charge!

You know what puzzles me?

I live in the ideal demographic for the Chevy Volt: Midtown Atlanta, very environmentally conscious, lots of people who choose to live close to their jobs (Georgia Tech, Emory, CDC are all represented on my street), and lousy public transport. So a zero-local-emissions car with very limited range would actually fit well into the lives of many people here.

And every time I read about electric cars, it talks about “charging it in your garage overnight.” Especially if you want to charge it in less than 10 hours, because you need a special $2000 240 volt charger like this one that’s hardwired into your household circuit breaker.

volt_charger.jpg

One problem… in high-density neighborhoods like mine, almost no one has a garage. People park on the street, or, if they’re lucky, in their driveway. Are you supposed to run a 100-foot extension cord out to the street? Across the sidewalk? In the rain? And what if the only parking spot tonight is across the street?

Or if you live in a highrise… you park in a communal garage. Even assuming you have a reserved parking slot (many don’t), how are you supposed to get a charger installed next to your slot with the power billed to your condo upstairs? The building isn’t going to let you hook into their electric meter without some sort of payment!

Considerations like this don’t bother owners of the Tesla all-electric Roadster, or the Fisker Karma, because if you can afford a $100,000 toy, you probably have a garage. (And at least one other car, for that matter.)

But if the Chevy Volt — and the Nissan Leaf, and others — are supposed to be electric transportation for Everyman (and Everywoman), they have to fit into Everyman’s life. And, in dense urban areas, Everyman doesn’t have a garage.

Comments

  1. Chris Farris says:

    I don’t think cars like the Volt are being designed based on the requirements of the consumers who will use them. They’re being designed under pressure from government agencies and special interest groups. The people pushing these cars either live in large Fairfax, VA homes, or DC brownstones and don’t use a car. Or they’re chauffeured around on the taxpayer’s dime.

  2. Orjan Isacson says:

    This is a great opportunity for smart entrepreneurs (and/or utilities) to come up with a solution for this problem. Great market potential! There are probably many brains working on this right now.

  3. T.A. Olson says:

    Seems to me gas-electric hybrids are still going to be the way to go for a long time. As far as electrics go, my decision factor revolves around the cross country road trip. When I can drive 3-400 miles at a stretch, under high performance conditions, and recharge in an hour or less, I’ll be a customer.

    (Steve, your captcha sucks – this is my 3rd attempt at a post)

  4. That’s a really great point, and not one I had considered before. It’s a great illustration about how assumptions about people get designed into technologies and those assumptions then shape who and who can’t use it. Frequently this is implicit, or remains implicit until someone points it out.

    Here’s another one. My husband and I both work at Georgia Tech. We live close to campus and frequently carpool. But we do not qualify for the carpool slots in the Georgia Tech parking deck. Why? Because we live “too close” to campus. Under three miles and you cease to be environmentally friendly or taking steps to reduce congested roads, and instead I suppose you become the slackers who should walk into work (or take the non-existant public transportation RIP #45). Of course my guess is that no-one at Parking and Transportation has ever had to carry a stack of graded papers into work on foot. But I am still trying to figure out why you can live too close to be a carpool.