Generator-Equipped EVs Could Help During Weather Emergencies
More electric vehicle makers are considering the addition of onboard generators in newer models. The ability to generate power would be useful in extreme weather situations like the one Texas faced earlier this year.
During the historic Texas freeze last month, Austin-Travis County EMS medics responded to dozens of calls for carbon monoxide poisoning, with some trying to use their cars in garages to stay warm or recharge phones but then breathing in exhaust fumes from the gas engines.
But new zero-emission electric car models, like Hyundai’s 2022 model Ioniq 5, are going to include a built-in generator and power adapter, according to Steve Burkett, an electric vehicle specialist. “This car and others that follow that technology will simply be able to plug in a quick adapter and you will be able to power the most bare kind of essentials of your house with that vehicle for several days,” Burkett said. “However, you are probably looking at another year or two before you start seeing that becoming a common feature on most electric vehicles.”
Electric vehicle technology is expanding its presence in Texas with companies like Rivian, whose delivery trucks operate out of Amazon's distribution hubs in the state, and Tesla, which is building a factory in the Austin area. Burkett said he thinks the shift to EVs in the future is inevitable because they are more efficient and cleaner than gasoline-powered vehicles.
“I liken it to Blackberries and iPhones," Burkett said. "Initially, there were people who couldn't live without a keyboard, now 12 years later, that would look archaic as a technology. It is natural for people to be a bit resistant to something they don't have experience with.”
In December 2020, Austin Energy created an Electric Vehicle Buyer's Guide in partnership with local dealerships. That same month the energy company also finished installing several chargers that can give a full charge in about 30 minutes at 21 cents a minute. However, not all vehicles are suited for this wattage and extended use will reduce the battery’s efficacy and lifespan.
Joshua Busby is a professor of public affairs at the University of Texas and specializes in climate and environmental policy. He says the growth of the electric vehicle market and consumer acceptance in Texas all depends on this type of infrastructure. He said he is also an electric vehicle owner. He tried to visit College Station recently but found that the only charging stations between there and Austin were for Tesla.
“Texas is a huge state and for drivers to have confidence that they can charge their vehicle from Point A to Point B and not be stranded somewhere,” Busby said. “Consumer acceptance will depend on that infrastructure investment.” The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranked Texas as 28th in its top 30 states for transportation electrification. The state earned high marks because of its tax credits and rebates offered to encourage electric vehicle purchases, but the group rated Texas poorly on supportive infrastructure for electric vehicles.
The council study noted that for the 39,504 light-duty electric vehicles registered in Texas, the state only has 3,131, charging ports and 1,215 charging stations. On the national level, President Joe Biden in January signed an executive order aiming to replace the federal government’s fleet of gas-powered vehicles with electric vehicles, and to build 500,000 charging plugs throughout the nation.
Busby said he has confidence that the Biden administration's infrastructure renewal plans can be passed through the U.S. Senate.
“We are in a moment where U.S. infrastructure is decaying so we could employ people and also have the need to refurbish the decaying infrastructure,” Busby said. “What we ultimately need is investments in cleaner infrastructure that employs Americans, cleans up our energy systems in the process and puts us on the pathway of the jobs of the 21st century.”
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