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    How Will Electric Cars Impact Gas Station Business?

    Report predicts smart grid will transform car and fuel industries.

    National Report -- The rise of electric cars probably will transform more than just the automobile, according to a report by PetrolPlaza News, an online portal for the retail petroleum equipment industry. The alliance between utilities and carmakers will lead to numerous changes, according to Ed Kjaer, the director of electric transportation for Southern California Edison, a giant utility. He also predicts a faster build of the so-called smart grid, whereby utilities use digital technology to allow consumers real-time measures of their energy use.

    According to the report, the smart grid allows power providers to offer pricing that encourages conservation and better utilizes off-peak hours overnight, when there's less draw on electricity as factories and office buildings ramp down. Digital communications between a utility and the consumer's home could stagger the charge coming to an electric car depending on the overall demand for power. Big off-peak energy users could see lower bills.

    These savings are one factor behind announcements by General Electric and Federal Express to greatly increase their fleets of electric vehicles.

    The report additionally notes that carmakers and manufacturers of electric-car chargers already have agreed on a common plug that'll work across the wide range of equipment providers. Utilities, carmakers and equipment providers now are working out a a key component -- a standard communication protocol for electric cars to communicate with power grids.

    How will this affect gas stations?

    The first wave of car-charging stations is likely to involve owners of buildings, and national retail chains that install car-charging operations for some small economic or marketing gain, said the report. Once a critical mass is reached in production and sales of electric cars, advocates said, the market could build out quickly.

    "Electricity has infrastructure that is already ubiquitous," said Mahi Reddy, the CEO of SemaConnect, a company in Annapolis, Md., that's making electric car chargers. Power lines and power distribution are already in place, making the transition far cheaper than for competing technologies. It is orders of magnitude cheaper than, say, installing hydrogen infrastructure or an ethanol infrastructure," he said.

    Utility and car maker reps appear to agree that as long as the majority of charging is done at low-use times overnight, the demand from electric cars will not overburden the utilities.


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