US homes need more voltage to charge cars quickly

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Few U.S. homeowners who are interested in owning electrical vehicles live in houses equipped to charge them quickly, a survey found Tuesday.

More than three-quarters, 78 percent, of potential buyers of electric cars like the Chevy Volt do not have the high-voltage electrical outlets in their garages that can quickly charge such vehicles, according to a survey by diversified U.S. manufacturer SPX Corp, which makes equipment to charge electric vehicles.

However 99 percent of respondents lived in homes that could have the necessary 240-volt outlets — also commonly used for heavy appliances like electric dryers — installed.

The survey highlights an obstacle to wider adoption of electric cars, which are gaining in popularity but still account for a small portion of overall U.S. car sales.

The short range of current electrical vehicle (EV) models, and a lack of charging infrastructure, are obstacles to a large EV fleet, advocates for electric vehicles have said.

A successful EV market needs easily available charging stations, Mary Nichols, chair of California’s clean air regulator, told the Reuters Global Energy and Climate Summit on Monday.

“The auto companies producing the kinds of cars that we want are a critical first step,” Nichols said.

The Environmental Protection Agency lists the range of Nissan Motor Co’sLeaf at 73 miles. For now, Nissan says car buyers will charge their cars at home as automakers, local governments and other companies develop a network of charging stations.

General Electric Co developed a charging station for homes and businesses in hope of making charging stations more common and enabling EV drivers to have a longer commute.

SPX installs home charging stations for owners of General Motors’ Chevy Volt at a cost of anywhere from $900 to more than $1,500. Nissan Leaf stations cost more than $2,000 to have installed at their homes.

U.S. gasoline prices are up more than one dollar per gallon from a year ago, and cars like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf are giving car buyers a choice to go electric.

Electric vehicles remain a relatively small part of the overall U.S. auto market. Only about 50,000 electric vehicles are expected to be sold in 2011, according to the Department of Energy. (Reporting by Roy Strom; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)