Mass-Market electric cars go on sale and have utility companies worried
POSTED: Monday, November 22, 2010 - 3:47am
UPDATED: Monday, November 22, 2010 - 6:21am
NEW YORK (AP) -- The first mass-market electric cars go on sale next month, and the nation's electric utilities couldn't be more thrilled - or worried.
Plugged into a socket, an electric car can draw as much power as a small house. The surge in demand could knock out power to a home, or even a neighborhood. That has utilities in parts of California, Texas and North Carolina scrambling to upgrade transformers and other equipment in neighborhoods where the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt are expected to be in high demand.
Not since air conditioning spread across the country in the 1950s and 1960s has the power industry faced such a growth opportunity. Last year, Americans spent $325 billion on gasoline, and utilities would love even a small piece of that market.
The main obstacles to wide-scale use of electric cars are high cost and limited range, at least until a network of charging stations is built. But utility executives fret that difficulties keeping the lights on for the first crop of buyers-and their neighbors-could slow the growth of this new niche.