Electrical contractors are hoping that large numbers of all-electric and hybrid vehicles (EVs) will result in new business installing home and commercial charging systems. But when will it happen, and what will the volume be?

In mid-December, the U.S. National Research Council (NRC), the principal operating agency of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, issued a report that found the costs of light-duty plug-in hybrid EVs are high, largely due to their lithium-ion batteries. The report also stated that the costs are unlikely to decrease significantly in the near future.

The Electrification Coalition, a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization committed to promoting the deployment of electric vehicles on a mass scale, immediately issued a conflicting press release.

“The NRC has done important work over the years, but in this case, some of their assumptions are off the mark,” said Robbie Diamond, Electrification Coalition president and CEO. “The NRC report reaches its conclusions by assuming battery costs that are far higher than current industry estimates. In addition, the report underestimates expected reductions in cost as battery technology continues to improve and economies of scale come into play.”

Another challenge facing mass deployments of EVs is the availability of charging stations. The Beautiful Earth Group recently opened New York’s first solar-powered charging station in Brooklyn. The off-grid station was built with recycled shipping containers and is powered by Sharp 235-watt panels.

The conflicting statements do not negate the fact that EVs are making strong headway in the automobile industry. Many major manufacturers unveiled new all-electric models at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January 2010. EVs are beginning to penetrate the automobile industry, and electrical contractors must be ready to accommodate them.