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Home Charging an Obstacle, But THINK Makes Corporate Sales

Almost a fifth of drivers are likely to consider buying an electric vehicle (EV), but the home charging costs may keep many from adopting the new technology, according to two IBM surveys.

Only 13 percent of drivers said they would consider spending more than $1,000 to retrofit their homes to support vehicle recharging, an IBM survey said. In comparison, industry estimates say that such retrofitting is likely to average between $1,000 and $2,000.

Auto industry executives and customers also disagree significantly on what factors motivate consumers to buy electric vehicles, the surveys found. Auto executives place greater emphasis than customers do on government incentives and oil prices, and customers place greater emphasis than executives on “sustainability concerns”.

In related news, electric car maker THINK has announced the delivery of 17 pure electric cars to utility companies in Indiana. Ten went to Duke Energy in Plainfield, Ind., and the rest to the Indianapolis Power & Light Company (IPL).

The cars are designed in Scandinavia but built in Indiana. They can travel 100 miles on a single charge. THINK cars have accumulated more than 35 million miles in Europe since 1999.

“By targeting electric utilities in the early deployment of EVs, we can help address several important challenges to the successful commercialization of these cars, such as establishing residual values for batteries, the cost of installing infrastructure and understanding the local impact of charging networks on the grid,” a THINK spokesperon said. “Electric utilities are impacted by all of these issues, not only as customers, but also as fuel and service providers.”

When advanced lithium-ion batteries are no longer fit to be used in electric cars, they may still be able to use 70 to 80 percent of their original energy, known as the “residual value”, THINK says. That makes the batteries useful for utility applications, such as back-up energy storage on the electric grid.

Residual value is an important issue for the EV industry because batteries comprise a significant portion of EV’s costs, THINK said.

It said that by early this year, it will place 100 or more electric vehicles and related charging infrastructure with corporate and government fleets, as well as selected individuals, across the Indianapolis area. In the second half of 2011, THINK plans to roll out distribution in more U.S. cities.

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