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Mass-Market electric cars go on sale and have utility companies worried

Mass-Market electric cars go on sale and have utility companies worried

POSTED: Monday, November 22, 2010 - 2:47am

UPDATED: Monday, November 22, 2010 - 5:21am

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.

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High Cost and Limited range--At 26k, and 100 mile range, the Leaf is pretty good at having neither.

And for the power grid? The Leaf has this neat little feature, you can set it to only charge at midnight, when demand is low. And at night is when everyone is going to be plugging them in anyway--since they'll be in use during the day. In fact, most experts believe electric cars will IMPROVE the stability of the grid.

So stop worrying!

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