Monday, March 16, 2009

Electric Surge

An article in USA Today discusses one California city's preparation for the surge in power needed for electric cars. When is the surge in electric transit coming?
Automakers envision electric cars as a solution to gas price jumps. Environmentalists see bluer skies. And electric utilities? They could be the biggest winners of all.
Seems to me electric utilities could be even bigger winners if they built electric transit networks. Then we wouldn't be sending our money to companies that provide diesel but rather the local power company, which hopefully has a smart grid linked to alternative energy. But its better than breathing the diesel fumes even now.


arcady said...

"Seems to me electric utilities could be even bigger winners if they built electric transit networks."
No, they wouldn't, because transit is so much more energy efficient than cars. They'd rather have you buy more electricity than less, and buy it off peak (like when you charge your car overnight) so that they can sell more electricity without building more power plants.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

Man Arcady you're quick on the draw. I was thinking of the addition of transit on top of the electric cars. It's even more energy consumption, even if its less per passenger. But I understand the point.

Cavan said...

This nonsense with electric cars is just more sticking are heads in the sand and pretending that we can continue our big suburbia party forever. It's over. The sooner we build more electric rail and change our zoning and taxing to encourage walkable urban development on a human-scale streetgrid convenient to a transit line, the better off we'll be. This electric car stuff has been rattling around since I've been in 5th grade, probably earlier but I was too young to remember it.

Even if we can solve the huge problems with electric car infrastructure and costs, where will get all that energy? No one really thought that one out. All they want is a magic bullet that will let them keep their car-dependent lifestyle. It's not happening and the sooner we come to grips with that the better off we'll be.

fpteditors said...

Arcady has nailed it again. The problem is the car itself, not what it burns. The electric car is essentially a switch to coal. Regardless of what it burns the car is extremely wasteful and has to be heavily subsidized to exist inspite of market forces to the contrary.

Matt Fisher said...

I agree. Arcady is right. This idea about that electric cars will save us is a bunch of crap. These guys must be thinking that sprawl and autocentricity are salvageable, and that the electric car will supplant the need for electric transit, not just on rails which I am most supportive of, but also trolleybuses.

Faith and Begorrah! Luck of the Irish be with you - today is St. Patrick's Day!

Anonymous said...

Utility companies cannot also own companies that consume large amounts of electricity. This was a problem before the 1935 Public Utility Holding Company Act- Streetcar companies and utilities were under the same parent, so they could extract high prices.

I believe the 2005 Energy Policy Act undid some of this, so maybe a utility could own a streetcar company outside of their service territory, but I doubt they could own a streetcar company within their territory.

That said, utilities would be wise to favor municipal transit agencies using more electric (subway, light rail, trolleybus) rather than using diesel buses or favoring autos.