Electric vehicles present 'significant market opportunity' in NWI

2012-05-22T15:00:00Z 2012-05-22T18:00:03Z Electric vehicles present 'significant market opportunity' in NWIBy Bowdeya Tweh bowdeya.tweh@nwi.com, (219) 933-3316 nwitimes.com

VALPARAISO | In the next five years, there could be thousands of new drivers of electric vehicles in Northern Indiana, according to an estimate from a national developer of vehicle charging station networks.

350Green LLC Project Director Winston Lin said Tuesday that as technology improves and awareness increases, there could be at least 20,000 more fleet customers and residents operating plug-in electric vehicles. Lin also said that about 266 charging stations would be needed to support the potential growth of vehicles.

350Green unveiled results of a market study and infrastructure plan to about 70 people at a forum on electric vehicles at Ivy Tech Community College's Valparaiso campus. South Shore Clean Cities and the Northern Indiana Public Service Co. were hosts for the public event to discuss market opportunities and information for potential electric vehicle owners.

"Northern Indiana does present a significant market opportunity for this type of technology," Lin said.

The Los Angeles-based electric vehicle charging station owner and operator also completed a study estimating vehicle adoption rates through 2016 in NIPSCO's 22-county electric service territory. The company is also the administrator for NIPSCO's IN-Charge Electric Vehicle Program.

Kevin Kirkham, of NIPSCO, told the audience that 28 people have enrolled in its pilot program since it launched in early April. Kirkham, director of regulatory strategic analysis and head of many of the utility's consumer programs, said NIPSCO is working to finalize details for a program that would offer $1.4 million in incentives annually for entities including universities, apartment building owners, fleet operators and other entities to defray the costs of installing charging stations.

Kirkham said there are at least three locations in Northwest Indiana that have vehicle charging stations for the public, including NIPSCO. The utility plans on building six public charging stations – adding to the four it already has – by the end of year.

Locations haven't been selected for any additional charging stations to be built, but Kirkham said the best locations would be at or near universities and workplaces, apartments, commercial and retail hubs, government public access areas, major transportation corridors and company fleets.

Danilo Santini, senior economist at the Argonne National Laboratory Center for Transportation Research, said increased use of electric vehicles would also require innovations in technology such as more plug-in electric vehicles being able to be powered using DC quick charging. With the 480-volt connection, batteries can be brought to nearly a full charge after 30 minutes instead of hours. Wireless vehicle charging technology could also increase the use of electric vehicles.

While industry trade groups and utilities have concerns about vehicles increasing strains on electric grids, Santini said the current adoption rate and other factors may mitigate the risk. He said utility companies could offer incentives to charge during off-peak times and recommend consumers not charge their vehicles during peak hours on the hottest summer days to alleviate those issues.

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