Archive for Saturday, February 19, 2011

Group energizes talks on car-charging stations in Lawrence

February 19, 2011


Months before President Barack Obama called for drastically increasing the number of electric cars on the road, an informal group in Lawrence was meeting to find a way to do just that.

The group — with membership including Kansas University researchers, Westar Energy, government officials and a car dealership — is looking at what infrastructure needs to be in place to make the electric car a reality in Lawrence.

And according to the group’s members, that “Jetsons”-like image of plugging in at home to power up your car isn’t as far off as some would think.

By the end of this year, Kansas University plans to have the first recharging station in Lawrence. And Briggs Nissan, 2300 W. 29th Terrace, is among the third wave of car dealerships that would offer the 100 percent electric Nissan LEAF. Exactly when they will come to Lawrence hasn’t been determined, the car dealership’s business development manager, Chris Rowe, said.

“Being that Lawrence is a very green community, there is an advantage of having it in this community,” Rowe said. “I’m a firm believer it is going to work here.”

More electric options

Electric cars are slowly moving into the mainstream. During his State of the Union address, Obama called for a million new electric cars to be on the road by 2015. Helping achieve that goal are a number of electric vehicles being offered by major automakers.

Along with Nissan, Ford has plans for the 2012 all-electric Focus. And Chevy is offering the Volt, a hybrid that has an electric motor with a 40-mile range and a gasoline engine that kicks in for longer drives. Owners can charge the vehicle from home.

Nissan is operating on a different sales strategy than it does with its traditional vehicles. Interested customers put in a request online for more information. From there they can buy the car. Then the local dealership will come to the house to set up the charging system.

“This is a 100 percent consumer demand,” Rowe said.

The transition of electric cars from a roadway oddity to dealership showroom is, in part, due to improved technology that keeps the electric car running longer and faster. But it also has a lot to do with basic economics.

“Gas prices keep going up. And they are just not going back down,” said Eileen Horn, sustainability coordinator for the city of Lawrence and Douglas County. “And I think that is playing on people’s awareness.”

Charging stations

As new electric car models come on the market, communities must answer how they will be charged away from home.

Last fall, the city of Lawrence applied for a grant that would have allowed for construction of a charging station. It turned out the grant wasn’t quite geared toward that kind of project, so the city withdrew its application, Horn said.

“We don’t want to build one that doesn’t get utilized. We are in a holding pattern, waiting to see how quickly Lawrence residents adopt this new technology,” Horn said.

But Lawrence could see its first charging station soon.

It will be part of a 2,000-square-foot addition to the Chamney Farm on KU’s West Campus. The building, the construction of which is part of architecture professor Dan Rockhill’s Studio 804 class, will be a LEED certified green building that will be a space for demonstration projects on new technologies. The site is along Bob Billings Parkway, between Iowa Street and Crestline Drive.

Along with technology that creates, stores and monitors energy, the building will be able to charge electric vehicles, said Carey Novak, who is director of business relations and development for KU.

The charging station will be used primarily for electric vehicles designed by researchers at KU. Whether it will be available to the public is still being discussed, Novak said.

The local Nissan dealership also has plans to build a charging station once it starts selling the LEAF.

The city is keeping an eye on spots that would make for good charging stations, Horn said. Those sites will likely be where people congregate and where they can burn time while their car charges.

Electric corridor

The informal Lawrence group has asked Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt., to consider a charging station in its parking plans for the library expansion, Novak said. It also thinks it would make sense to place them at large stores such as Target, Best Buy, Walmart and Dillons.

Once there are several stations in Lawrence, the next step would be to set up a network of charging stations between Topeka and Kansas City so people can commute with electric cars.

“We could very easily with not a lot of investment have a 60-mile (electric vehicle) corridor. And Lawrence is right in the middle,” Novak said.

Embracing electric cars is one more way Lawrence can become a nexus of green-minded innovation, Novak said.

“We have got a wonderful opportunity in making Lawrence this huge test lab of developing technologies,” he said.


ralphralph 7 years, 4 months ago

If we're going to start plugging-in cars, we'd better start building more nuclear plants. ... unless you are big fans of coal-fired plants.

Windmills aren't going to power your cars. Neither are solar panels. So, what's it going to be? Coal or nuclear.

I'm thinking ... Clean, Safe, Reliable, Domestic, Sufficient = Nuclear.

If you disagree, then don't plug your damn car into my grid.

gccs14r 7 years, 4 months ago

I guess you didn't hear about the two Germans who drove across Australia in an electric car that was recharged by a portable windmill.

LogicMan 7 years, 4 months ago

How long did it take them, in total?

Assuming good roads, it would take two days, straight through, with a conventional car.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 4 months ago

It took 18 days to cover 3,000 miles. They drove along the coast so they'd have the best chance of getting enough wind to run their windmill.

parrothead8 7 years, 4 months ago

If you can drive 3000 miles in two days, you're in the wrong line of work. You should be driving 24-hour Le Mans races.

LogicMan 7 years, 4 months ago

"If you can drive 3000 miles in two days"

No problem. Very tiring though.

Anyone else having problems with comments not appearing after being submitted? Even after flushing the cache and reloading the page?

parrothead8 7 years, 4 months ago

You'd have to average 62.5 mph for 48 straight hours, and that's assuming you don't stop at all for gas, food, bathroom, or sleep breaks. If all of your stops along the way total just one hour, then you need to average 64 mph for 47 hours of driving on no sleep.

Sure, it CAN be done. But no problem? I think not. Very tiring? That's an understatement.

LogicMan 7 years, 4 months ago

I've done longer duration, and higher average speeds, including pit-stops. Who needs sleep?

What's the speed limit down-under?

Martin Shupert 7 years, 4 months ago

So, it's YOUR grid? Is it also YOUR oil? Most of the time, electric cars can be plugged in at night, when energy is cheapest. Nothing wrong with new generation Nuclear, which is much safer than the plants of the past. A new Walmart probably drains more energy from YOUR grid than a charging station would.

LogicMan 7 years, 4 months ago

With good timers so that charging occurs only in the wee hours, maybe a good percentage of cars could be electric without expanding the grid. 10%? Otherwise new generators and much heavier power cables, transformers and so on will be needed. They are not cheap.

BigPrune 7 years, 4 months ago

Whatever happened to compressed natural gas (CNG) automobiles? Honda has one and some government cars have it. Natural gas is cleaner than the coal burning plants that generate electricity and it is far cheaper.

SinoHawk 7 years, 4 months ago

Distribution is a bit of a hassle, to say the least. It works alright in large bus fleets, but doesn't work to well when you need to get to Sedan, KS and every petrol station would need to change equipment.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 4 months ago

THINK Street ready golf carts: There are local sources available such as Olathe.

These cannot travel on highways, 23rd or 6th( both are highways) but would do good around town. Traveling across say 23rd or 6th is legal but not on. They will not travel faster than 25 mph. There are many safe ways to get around Lawrence without traveling the busiest fastest of streets. Some of these vehicles do come with solar power.

My thinking is electric cars initially will be practical only around town until one is developed that will go several hundred miles in between charges. Around town driving is one of the largest sources of pollution.... yes around town driving is quite polluting.

Other practical methods:


gl0ck0wn3r 7 years, 4 months ago

Says the guy who uses gas powered mowers for his business.

Bill Griffith 7 years, 4 months ago

I think most of the electric cars should be sold in states with a lower dependency on coal than Kansas (69.9% although probably dropping in the next 5-10 years). If you charge up in Lawrence the energy is coming from Lawrence Energy Center which is problematic. However, one also has to recognize the drumbeat of lowering our oil demand for many reasons and I respect that argument. The purest way to use these cars is if you have a photovoltaic system at your home and use that for the majority of your charging. Folks who can afford the first generation of electric cars can probably entertain the the thought of investing in a solar cells for their home as their price continues to decline.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 4 months ago

Will the Volt replace the Prius as one of the leading causes of smug in America? Stay tuned to find out.

Martin Shupert 7 years, 4 months ago

Actually the Prius replaces a gas guzzler that helps reduce your fuel bill. I wish we could figure out how to replace ignorance.

SinoHawk 7 years, 4 months ago

Thanks to large government subsidies. Let me know how it goes when you need to change out your (expensive) batteries.

monkeyhawk 7 years, 4 months ago

I love to pull up next to "those" cars at a stop light in my 8 cylinder, premium slurping, classic elegant import. My only regret is that when the light turns, my vehicle doesn't belch that nasty black smoke. My gas guzzler will never be replaced by one of those things.

snap - to answer your question - I think someone did not get a smug control on their Prius.

Bob_Keeshan 7 years, 4 months ago

Electric cars are bad because of the "types" of people that endorse them. Brilliant logic.

However... “This is a 100 percent consumer demand,” Rowe said.

A key point that so-called conservatives smugly dismiss in their anti-green ranting. It is the market that is driving innovation. It is the market that has produced first hybrids and now electric vehicles. It is the market that has dramatically reduced the costs of alternative energy sources.

Conservatives used to be pro-market. Wonder what happened?

Bob_Keeshan 7 years, 4 months ago

Here's an idear -- Do Both.

What the hell is wrong with you?

50YearResident 7 years, 4 months ago

Whatever developes with this I hope none of the decision makers Downtown decide to take out 4 more meters in each block to dedicate to re-charging only. Downtown parking is already killing business. I would like to see a report about how the 15 minute only meters are working out. Does anyone ever use them? Or do people do like I did, I needed a parking space for 30 min and pulled into an 15 min one. Then I had to back out and look for a differant meter. How many parking tickets have been written for the 15 min ones? Are ticket payers complaining? My guess, it is a nightmare for all involved and a very bad decision to install them. Enough time has pasted for an evaluation, lets see it in print LjWorld.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 4 months ago

les seems to be a member of the merril post-recycling club.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 4 months ago

In other electric news: "...The Caribou wind farm near Bathurst, N.B., has the capacity to produce enough electricity to power about 30,000 homes, but has been slowed by ice for two consecutive winters.... Manager Mark Hachey says the 33 turbines were last in operation during the second week of January. The farm, which is about 70 km northwest of Bathurst, had similar problems last winter and had lost 20 days of power generation by mid-February...." Read the rest at

Scott Morgan 7 years, 4 months ago

Geez, turbine wind farms which don't operate during peek seasons. Canadia uses more electricity in Winter. So sorry, but this whole alternate energy thing just doesn't seem to work well.

First we put ugly panels on our homes (tax purposes only) which can power a light bulb or two, then we convert our food into gas. What about gas, were not we to run out by 1989? What happened?

Electric cars do have merit. Think they will work, but what happens when you wish to break wind. No motor to rev up drowning out the hiccup. Scientist never think of these important things.

What a we men supposed to do at Thanksgiving if there's nothing for us to fake looking at while congregating in the garage with a car hood open? uhhh?

How about all the poor skunks and possums who have a hard enough time getting out of the way of loud cars now? Good grief K-10 will look like a post battle scene from Gettysburg.

Forget the Volt, how about a Nuke Lincoln Town Car? 567,789,333 miles between fill ups.

gccs14r 7 years, 4 months ago

We have to get our energy budget back down below what we get in real time from the Sun. Coal, oil, and gas are stored solar energy from millions of years ago and once they're depleted, they are not likely to be created again for the life of this planet. All this talk about 80 years this and 300 years that is just so much dithering while we hurtle toward an energy precipice. Sure, there may be enough fossil fuel remaining for some of you to not have to change how you live, but is that really the legacy you wish to leave behind? Your grandchildren will be so proud.

TheStig 7 years, 4 months ago

Q: What is the estimated time for full charging with 110v, 220v and fast charge stations?

A: It takes about ~30 minutes to 80% at a 480 volt quick-charge station. Starting from a depleted battery, ~7 hours at 220/240V (depending on amperage), about 20 hours at 110/120V.

Can you imagine the wait, and the Westar profits!

Q: Since the Nissan LEAF solely runs on electricity, would charging from home dramatically increase my electricity bill?

A: Based on a US average of $0.11/kWh, a full charge will cost about $2.75. It could be even less, if your area has time-of-use rates and you charge at off-peak hours.

Assuming you drive 40 miles/day and need to fully charge every day in a year that would increase your electric bill $83.64/month ($1003.75/year).

While we are at it lets not forget the Fuel Charge ($0.016159/kWh using February-March 2010 fuel charge), Transmission Charge ($0.007263/kWh), Environmental Cost Recovery Rider ($0.002173/kWh), Property Tax Surcharge (1,000 kWh x ($0.000224/kWh), Franchise Fee (3%), Local Sales Tax (1%) Amounts vary by location. Rates may vary.$file/Residential%20Rates.pdf?openelement

If I were Westar I would be selling electric cars at a discount as long as they were forced to use my generators, like mobile phone companies do with Smartphones and a service agreements.

Scott Morgan 7 years, 4 months ago

My grandchildren will be using Nuclear energy like the Spanish, Danish, Swedish, Japanese children of the future will use,...and are using today........It's due to the Greenheads we don't use this source of fuel in the U.S.

Taking on the argument, huge giant Mideast drawfing oil fields seem to pop up on a regular basis nowadays, at least every other year. The Brazilian oil fields were the last.

Yet we still march on like the last drop of oil is hours away.

I always smile thinking our future generations may have the job of finding ways of disposing of the waste oil momma nature made when they begin to build subterranean.

gccs14r 7 years, 4 months ago

We have 80 years of nuclear energy left, unless you want everyone to switch to breeder reactors, which create plutonium as a waste product. Last I heard we want to reduce the amount of plutonium sitting around. Then what to do with the waste product, which is dangerously hot for 25,000 years.

As for new "proven" reserves of oil, don't believe everything you read.

Mr_B9 7 years, 4 months ago

Taxpayers are forced to pay for charging stations and our utility rates will increase because of more demand. Brilliant, and we have been told there is an energy shortage and we need to conserve. Thus smart meters, WTF? If the electric cars are the future than one would think that the private sector would be investing their dollars for return of profit from a charging station. But no, Uncle Sam has decided we the taxpayer will pay for this farce. Is there any wonder why were broke as a nation? This is simply another persuasive master plan in the game of re-elections. Frankly, I am disgusted to say the least at this form of governance. The dominoes are tumbling sequentially and will not lose any steam until were completely broke. Wake up America and quit playing into the Dumbing of America that obviously is in full swing. Just so you know, I am 100% on board with any alternative fuel source or vehicle as long as it is not at the expense of the taxpayer. I certainly understand the responsibilities of the taxpayer, however this is another example of what is not our responsibility.

ralphralph 7 years, 4 months ago

If you want to plug in your car, you need to have nuclear energy to provide the juice.

It's called "the truth", also known as "reality".

Or, we can keep burning coal, and our food.

Clean + Safe + Reliable + Domestic = Nuclear.

devobrun 7 years, 4 months ago

Everybody out there who values physics, look for battery technology advances. Unless batteries become better, electric cars will be a novelty. At this point, cars that cross Australia are a novelty. Cars that use petro-fuel to charge batteries are a novelty.

Batteries folks. They aren't good enough. Billions are being poured into battery research. Charge storage is the key to unlocking a vast energy market. Electrical energy is the best....except it doesn't store easily. When (or if) it stores in quantities necessary to run a semi from KC to Salina, then you can put bank on the technology. Until then, don't.

All this talk is just a bunch of bored folks who know that someday...eventually, maybe....there will be a battery that can do the job.

Whistling past the cemetery?

Bill Griffith 7 years, 4 months ago

If I didn't know better I would think you would hope battery technology would fail to progress as you state it needs to......

BigPrune 7 years, 4 months ago

How much does it cost to replace a Prius' battery when it stops working, $10,000? So the cars cost thousands more than a regular car. Wouldn't smart money be driving a gasoline powered car even if it gets less miles per gallon?

llama726 7 years, 4 months ago

The battery is warranted for 8 years or 100,000 miles. Assuming the Prius earns you at least 20 more mpg than what you're looking at driving, that is a difference for a 25 mpg vehicle (4000 gallons of gas) of 1778 gallons of gas (2222 for the Prius for same distance). 1778 gallons of gas saved at a cost of $4 a gallon (assuming it keeps going up) is a savings of $7112 over the lifespan of that battery.

No, that's not quite $10,000, but the searches I've done online indicate that the battery is more in the $3000 to $4000 range, and that Toyota designed it to last the life of the car, as evidenced by the 100,000 - 150,000 mile warranty.

Full disclosure: I do not own a Prius or any other hybrid, I just don't think you're representing this accurately at all.

Bill Griffith 7 years, 4 months ago

The cost is around 2000 dollars or you can get one from an auto salvage at a cost of about 500 dollars that is fairly low mileage. I have checked with some auto yards on this question.

Scott Morgan 7 years, 4 months ago

Maybe a fossil, but I still do road trips, Long and short. Hard to think about investing 50-50 K and not having this option.

Bill Griffith 7 years, 4 months ago

You shouldn't invest in this technology right now. It is for shorter range commuters or get a electric.gas combo or a hybrid. Pure battery cars are for the commuter folks amongst us for right now.

gphawk89 7 years, 4 months ago

"What’s more, an electric engine is inherently more efficient than a combustion engine: One gallon of gasoline could be used to generate enough electricity to power an electric vehicle for hundreds of miles."

So you use a gallon of gasoline in a combustion engine to run a generator (less than 100% efficient) to charge a battery (way less than 100% efficient) then drain the battery (way less than 100% efficient) to power an electric motor (less than 100% efficient) to turn the wheels. Why not just use the gallon of gasoline to directly turn the wheels and eliminate all of the inefficiencies?

gphawk89 7 years, 4 months ago

And yes, I realize that powering one multi-megawatt generator with gasoline is way more efficient than running thousands of gas engines in individual automobiles. But we're still talking about burning fossil fuels.

Wind's too unreliable. Solar's not practical unless the efficiency of solar panels is greatly increased. Hydroelectric's great but there's just a limited number of places that can be done. Which leaves us with fossil and nuclear.

gphawk89 7 years, 4 months ago

You're thinking correctly about LED's. LED's and solar panels make a great combination. But we're not talking about LED's. We're talking about powering a car.

Let's assume .25 kWh/mile, a bit more than Toyota has spec'd for the Leaf. Commute 20 miles each day and you've consumed 5kWh of energy. Taking all the previously-mentioned inefficiencies into account, it'll take some pretty big solar panels to replenish that energy at the end of each day - something like 1000 square feet if I'm thinking correctly.

I would love to see the efficiencies (and toughness) of solar panels increase to the point that the top surfaces of a car could just be covered with panels and constantly recharge the battery. For very short commutes, charging stations would be unnecessary.

With all of this innovation and competition you mention, how is it that I have a mid-80's car that got over 50mpg new and still gets about 40, but car makers today seem to be making a big deal about their cars that get anything over 30? Heck, my Thunderbird with a 5.0 V8 got over 30 when I bought it almost 20 years ago.

gccs14r 7 years, 4 months ago

Cars are much heavier now because of new safety features. Speeds are higher, too.

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