The electric car has been around for a long time. In the late 1930’s Robert Anderson (A Scottish inventor) built the first crude electric carriage. Over the years the car has been improved to a point where it could be a practical mode of transportation for many people. One of the main reasons we don’t see many on the roads is because charging a large number of electric cars will require huge upgrades to the nation’s infrastructure

SolarCity and Tesla Motors hope to change the amount of electric cars on the road by installing solar-powered car charging stations in Rabobank locations along California Route 101. These quick charging “gas stations” delivers up to 70 amps (240 volts) of electricity which would charge a Telsa Roadster in about 3.5 hours. SolarCity has also installed over 100 in home-charging stations throughout the state.

The Beautiful Earth Group, a solar and wind farms company started last year, has paired up with BMW and the mini, to build solar charging stations in the Red Hook, Brooklyn area. These stations are truly “green”. Built out of recycled shipping containers the station can provide enough energy to charge the Mini E in three hours. Lex Heslin, chief executive of Beautiful Earth, claims two firsts: He got the keys to the first electric version of the Mini Cooper in New York and his company is operating the city’s first solar E.V. charging station.

Silicon Valley based company, Coulomb Technologies, have been building charging stations around the world since 2007. Their recent partnership with Envision Solar has allowed them to integrate their ChargePoint technology into a “solar grove” at Dell headquarters in Round Rock, Tex. This system provided 131,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, and doubles as shade for 56 parking spaces.

With the environmental issues we face today, solar charging could become big business. Ideally, solar charging stations will be connected to the grid so they can feed electricity back when the power is not needed for car-charging. When the sun isn’t shining, cars can be charged on grid power.

green symbolPresident Obama’s goal of 1 million plug-in hybrids on U.S. roads by 2015 seems like a good idea for the environment, but is it really possible?

With new advances in battery technology, electric cars can go almost 100 miles on a charge. And for those who fear being stranded with a dead battery miles from a plug in, there is a gasoline engine as well. This range should be enough to suit up to 80% of U.S. drivers on the road. With federal government incentives for EV buyers, such as tax credits of up to $7,500 for buyers of the first 200,000 vehicles from each manufacturer, this could be true. According to Jason Wolf, an executive at Better Place, a Palo Alto firm aiming to provide charging services for plug-in drivers. “Over 70% of major manufacturers have some kind of mass plug-in coming in the next two years.”

This however, involves a huge change to the nation’s electric grid infrastructure. People charging cars in their garages may need to upgrade their home circuits, which often requires permits, building inspections and other headaches. Neighborhood upgrades like new transformers would also be needed. These upgrades would be expensive, and in the interest of encouraging electric cars, the utility companies would most likely pay for it through our electric bills. In the end we need to ask ourselves, “Would the emissions released by the utility companies making extra electricity really be less than the emissions from the car itself?”