First 'Real World' Plug-In Neighborhood Test Raises Utility Concerns

The number of plugged-in cars in the Mueller development in Austin, Texas begins to rise at 3 P.M. and continues through 8 P.M.-the same time period when home air conditioners are being turned on or up.

Published: 22-Aug-2012

Environmentalists and renewable energy enthusiasts have been extolling electric cars for years, and now consumers are actually buying them. Electric utilities favor them as well, because plugging in the cars to recharge batteries adds to electricity sales. The utilities are worried, however, that if too many people in a community charge their vehicles at the same time of day, that synchrony would create spikes in power demand that could force the power suppliers to turn on expensive "peak generators" such as gas turbines—costs the utilities would rather avoid, and would ultimately pass on to consumers.

So would car owners all plug in at similar times? Early statistics from a concentration of electric car owners in Texas say, yes, they would.

The data come from a new, 280-hectare neighborhood in Austin, Tex., known as Mueller. The community is designed to maximize sustainable living, exploiting green building construction, intelligent appliances, smart electric meters and home management systems, as well as integrated residential, work, shopping and entertainment spaces. When complete, it is supposed to offer homes for 13,000 residents and jobs for about as many individuals.

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