If you haven’t already noticed, gas prices haven’t gone down much lately. The high price of fuel is most likely here to stay and will probably go much higher in the future as demand and the ever changing world events push speculators to literately drive the market (and drive us nuts!). It seems every time the price of a barrel of oil goes up, the price of gasoline shortly follows but the opposite is always much slower when the price of oil goes down. Strange isn’t it.
Fuel efficient vehicles have made large strides in the past decade but the growing world population, particularly in the developing countries, have offset fuel efficiency vehicles when large population countries such as China and India are purchasing vehicles while still increasing demand for fuel.
This takes us to the next best vehicle the Hybrid which uses two power sources, a combustion engine and an electric motor. There are numerous types of hybrid engines, parallel, power-split and series to name a few but it still takes some amount of fuel or fuel cell to get these engines running.
And then there is the Electric Vehicle or EV which uses nothing but pure, clean electricity. Vehicle cost, even after government tax incentives and rebates plus battery life and replacement cost, still haven’t made this a popular choice. But as the car industry produces more of these vehicles and increasing competition to manufacturer these vehicles and their lithium-ion batteries more efficiently, we should see within the next decade a more affordable EV which will eventually take the place of the combustion engine.
So, you now have all these EV’s running around on the roads but what about the infrastructure to support the use of them. The range on these vehicles are not even close to the distances you can drive by filling up your 30 gallon tank in your V8 monster truck. 100 miles on a single charge is all you’re going to get unless you have the new Tesla Roadster which will get you 200 miles plus. Still, that 8 hour drive to grandmother’s house during the Thanksgiving holidays is going to constantly worry you and “range anxiety” is going to set in as you constantly look for a charging station.
For now, the EV is geared towards the daily commute where an average of 40 to 50 miles is the norm as we sip on our Starbucks and tune into our favorite sports talk show during the morning and afternoon freeway rat race. This has the industry responding by providing “charging networks” throughout the major U.S. metropolitan markets. States like California and Texas are now placing these networks at numerous locations and independent companies are giving EV owners monthly contract packages to pay a single monthly rate and charge at any of the charging stations available on their networks in the metro areas. So coming to a Starbucks, McDonalds’s or any Alta Property near you could be your first EV charging station.
But our options are just not limited to these open networks, we can also offer our customers our own charging station systems within a “closed network” and at the same time generate revenue by setting the price to use the station with multiple payment options to our tenants. We can also limit access to the charging station to certain users. The low cost and ease of installation, pending on the charging protocol type and built-in cellular connections can help us distinguish our apartment communities, stay competitive and gain marketing advantages by green building programs such as LEED.
As Nikola Tesla once quoted “It is probable that we shall perfect instruments for indicating the altitude of a place by means of a circuit, properly constructed and arranged, and I have thought of a number of other uses to which this principle may be put.” As Tesla was searching for new ways to use electricity, we must take what he envisioned and expand on these ideas to new and better uses for our transportation future needs.
William J. Greene III, LEED® AP BD+C