GE Harnesses Solar Energy to Empower Electric Vehicles
by Dave Fessler, Investment U's Energy and Infrastructure Expert
Tuesday, June 7, 2011: Issue #1529
Everyone knows we need to remove ourselves from the grip of foreign oil. Our 100-year-plus supply of natural gas aside, not having to depend on others for our energy supply just makes good economic sense.
There's a national security issue, too. Electric vehicles (EVs) have been touted as one of the ways we can reduce our dependence on foreign oil. EV naysayers have pointed out that all EVs do is move the pollution from the tailpipe to the smokestack of power plants.
They have a valid point, depending on where you live. Coal-fired power plants produce about half the energy we use in the United States.
But what if we could produce our own power? Or at least enough to recharge our EV batteries? That would take away many arguments for not switching to these types of vehicles...
GE Harnesses Sun Power Like No Other
Well, General Electric (NYSE: GE) has developed a system allowing electric vehicle owners to do exactly that. Last week, GE Energy unveiled its Electric Vehicle Solar Carport. Its solar-paneled roof feeds the electricity produced into GE's new Smart EV Charging Stations.
Installed in Plainville, Conn., the EV Solar Carport Project produces enough energy to power nearly 20 homes per year. With a projected 25-year lifespan, GE's Solar Carport can be installed just about anywhere there's a parking lot.
Not only will you be able to recharge your EV, but it will also be in the shade. Most EVs allow themselves to be programmed to cool down before you arrive back from your shopping or other errand. How many gas-guzzlers do that? And where can you find shady parking in a giant mall parking lot?
So, is GE onto something here? Luis Ramirez, CEO of GE Energy Industrial Solutions, thinks so. Here's what he had to say at the unveiling ceremony attended by Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy:
"We see anywhere you park your electric vehicle as a great opportunity for charging infrastructure. Now we also lead the future of electrification for electric vehicles with supplied power from the sun.
"The GE EV Solar Carport provides clean energy alternatives to oil and biofuels, expands our ability to capture the sun's energy and helps us deliver a viable EV ecosystem. This is a bright day for EV infrastructure development in Connecticut and the nation."
GE's Solar Expansion for Increased Power Demand
The Solar Carport is capable of charging up to 13 vehicles per day, and can be expanded as the demand increases. The system is also connected to grid power to allow EVs to be charged at night and on cloudy days.
In his remarks, Ramirez also addressed the issue of "range anxiety." This is perceived as a very real concern by potential EV buyers.
"Consumers want the convenience and peace of mind knowing they can get from point A to point B without running out of energy.
"GE is working with a number of utilities and municipalities, in the U.S. and abroad, to address this issue of creating a widely distributed network of electric vehicle charging stations. The presence of ubiquitous, Level 2 charging will make consumers far less worried about their car running out of power."
This stand-alone charging infrastructure is crucial for EV owners. Wherever cars sit for any length of time, home, work, or shopping, charging stations will be popping up.
GE's Solar Carport Project is destined to be a big hit, in my opinion. Enterprising individuals will want to sell you power while you shop. In addition, stores themselves will install them once EVs become more plentiful.
There are other companies making EV charging stations, but GE is the first to create a self-contained system that combines shaded parking, charging and a source for the electricity to do it. And this is just the beginning...