I had a very interesting conversation with a power electronics specialist regarding charging for electric vehicles. Let me elaborate: Charging for road taxes for electric vehicles. Those rich guys who can afford the Tesla are not paying road taxes like the rest of us. (I will call “us” The Combustibles Group.) And neither are the Leaf folks, either. The incentive in the U.S. is still a $7,500 tax credit for buying an electric vehicle. A tax credit here means that you figure up your bill to Uncle Sam on April 15 and then subtract $7,500 from what you owe.
The U.S. government is interested in getting more people to drive electric cars, and so is the Utility Company. You see, ever since CFC bulbs were introduced, our energy use has slowed in growth even as the population has grown. Energy use has been flat for years. If more people bought more electric cars, more electricity would be used, less pollution would be created, and everyone would be happy….except The Combustibles Group, because they will be the only ones paying the gas tax.
But of course, Uncle Sam is very interested in getting his cut from the growing group of electric vehicles, at least eventually, and the Utility Company is going to help out with that. So is the automotive industry. The power electronics engineer mentioned that he was in a group that is creating connector standards for charging electric vehicles at home.
If all the EVs had to use a charging station that by law used a standardized connector, they would be able to pay the road taxes that they presently are literally unable to pay. (I doubt anyone is stepping up to donate to their share to the local Department of Revenue.) The Utility Company would have a separate branch of electricity supplied and accounted for by this special connector with the help of a smart meter. The Leaf has a range of 80 miles and the Tesla can go 200 miles before needing a charge. If a smart charging station is going to recharge your car in 30 minutes or less, you’re likely to want to have one. You can actually charge a Leaf with a regular wall socket or the 3-pronged plug in your house used for an electric dryer. But it takes 8 – 10 hours to charge a Leaf from a 120V wall socket. In a pinch, you could charge just about anywhere as long as you were willing to wait. Connectors that can withstand huge power requirements are used to do the fast charging. Safety with high voltages is also a factor in car charging connectors. Loads of electronics are involved in electric vehicles and the charging stations. Supercapacitors are key to making Tesla’s (and other rapid) charging stations possible; you need a lot of power to dump into an EV at a rapid charging rate, and browning out the local grid isn’t nice.
Besides the tax credit and the lack of road taxes, EVs pay only 1/3 the cost that The Combustibles Group pays for propellant. According to the Wall Street Journal, you would pay the equivalent of $1.27 a gallon for an electric car versus an equivalent car in The Combustibles Group. When the U.S. hits a critical mass of electric cars on the roads, standards will be applied that allow regulation and taxes. Just the idea of getting out of paying any taxes, even if it’s just a few cents, seems to be the best reason of all to buy an EV. Call me evil, but my inner rebel would cackle every time I plugged in my car.
Lynnette Reese holds a B.S.E.E from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Lynnette has worked at Mouser Electronics, Texas Instruments, Freescale (now NXP), and Cypress Semiconductor. Lynnette has three kids and occasionally runs benign experiments on them. She is currently saving for the kids’ college and eventual therapy once they find out that cauliflower isn’t a rare albino broccoli (and other white lies.)
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