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Kansas City Power & Light Company (KCP&L) is getting ready for plug-in electric vehicles [PHEVs] with smart grid technology.  KCP&L will prepare the region for the new breed of cars before they hit the highways in large numbers.

KCP*L will eventually open 10 public charging stations over the next two years.  The first will open in midtown Kansas City in 2011.  The utility is also considering a new public education effort telling its customers about the new responsibilities that will come with owning an electric vehicle.

“The electric utility industry wants to enable [PHEVs] and not hinder them,” said Kevin Bryant, vice president of energy solutions at KCP&L, in an interview with the Kansas City Star.

KCP&L, as part of a group of around 50 utilities, has been working with the Electric Power Research Institute and the automotive industry in order to ease the transition.  GM and Nissan both plan to debut PHEVs before the end of the year.

Much attention has been given to General Motors, which plans on making its Volt available for a retail price of about $40,000.  A tax credit worth $7,500 will lessen the cost for Volt purchasers.  Sales are expected to start slowly.  GM is expected to only manufacture about 10,000 Volts in the first year and they will be marketed in California, Michigan, and Washington, D.C.

Britta Gross, director of global energy systems at GM, said the Volt will debut nationwide by the end of 2012.  By then consumers will have a choice of models.  Several auto manufacturers are hoping to have models available that can go 100 miles before a recharge is necessary.

GM says an extended range requires a more expensive battery.  The auto giant said its experience with its EV1 electric car, sold in small numbers in the 1990s, showed that cars that ran on battery power alone made drivers uneasy.  Motorists became worried about their cars running out of juice even when half the charge was available.

As a result the Volt will only have a 40 mile range, and a smaller battery.  The range is plenty for three-quarters of American commuters driving from home to work and back.  If the battery runs out, a gas-fired generator powers the battery so the car can keep going.

“We have done our homework,” said Gross.  “But the market is going to tell us real soon what makes the most sense to consumers.”  The backup power of the Volt means GM won’t be depend upon widespread availability of electric charging stations.  GM believes that most Volt owners will charge their cars at home.

Costing $1 for a full recharge, it will take eight hours with a 120 volt line or three hours with a 240 volt line.  Most home garages will already have a 120 volt line and GM will partner with a third-party installer for customers that want to have a 240 volt line installed.

GM will also make use of its OnStar satellite communications system for cell phone applications that allow Volt owners to check the battery’s charge or remotely start the vehicle while it is plugged in.

Customers that recharge their vehicles at night – which could become a normal habit for daily commuters – could benefit themselves and the environment.  Energy is less-costly to produce during the overnight non-peak hours.  KCP&L says it is typically windier at night so more renewable power will be available.

“We will look to use wind energy to power electric cars,” said Chuck Caisley, a spokesman for the utility.

Kansas City Power and Light
1201 Walnut
Kansas City, MO 64141

Electric Power Research Institute
3420 Hillview Avenue
Palo Alto, California 94304

General Motors Corporation
P.O. Box 33170
Detroit, MI 48232-5170

Nissan North America, Inc.
6-17-1, Ginza
Chuo-ku, TKY 104-8023

© No Reproduction without permission.

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