Electric cars seem to have the caught the imagination of world leaders, vehicle manufacturers and the public. However, if they are to be adopted on a wide scale, then initiatives will be needed to develop networks of charging stations for the plug-in vehicles slated to roll out in 2011 and beyond. So how can this be achieved?
According to the finance chief for London’s climate change programme, Padmesh Sukla, inspiration can be taken from Sun Microsystems’ Java platform. This system for software development on mobile devices, the web and enterprise servers, provides a model, he suggests, that governments can use to craft guidelines for the companies that are bidding on government-backed electric vehicle infrastructure projects.
Speaking at a panel hosted by Think London, he wants the capital city to have an infrastructure that looks more like Java that software developers can use for free as opposed to Microsoft’s proprietary technology. According to Shukla, it has to be an open platform.
In terms of software, third parties can add functionality to a basic framework. For electric vehicle infrastructure, Shukla believes that the London government, working with larger UK initiatives, should not pick one technology or company to have a monopoly on charging infrastructure but should use the open platform model to foster development of common standards.
He described it as a chicken and egg problem with limited access to charge points dragging down demand, but a limited number of electric cars dragging down business for the charge point developers.
So he believes London should foster an electric vehicle friendly environment with policies that include all new residential developments of a certain density incorporating charging points in their car parks.
A similar open model has been outlined by Californian utility San Diego Gas and Electric, which is working with the Renault-Nissan Alliance to prepare a system for a new demand from plug-in vehicles. The company will leave the selection of different hardware and services to its customers.
It seems that though we are still some time away from a completed idea on charge point networking, an open platform may set things on the right road.