Google on Electric Avenue
Dozens of plug-in electric vehicles paraded through Washington, DC's main streets this week as part of the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA)'s "Innovation Motorcade" and national conference. I hitched a ride in the 2011 Mitsubishi iMiev in which my driver showed off how the vehicle can partially re-charge itself through regenerative breaking. We followed behind the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, Tesla Roadster, Ford Focus, Via Motors truck, Toyota Prius Plug-in, Ford Transit Connect EV, Amp Electric Equinox, Coda electric sedan, Hyundai BlueOn, Odyne electric truck, and Think! City. Indeed, there are more than 30 new electric vehicle models expected to be available for sale in the next couple of years.
At the motorcade's press conference, US Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced two new initiatives. The first is a partnership with Google that will create a national clearinghouse and mobile app that will provide charging station locations and directions. The second is a $5 million program to award 10-15 cities $250,000 to $500,000 that will help them become EV-ready. The funding will enable municipalities to improve their permitting processes for EV charging unit installations and enable strategic siting of public charging units.
Secretary Chu said, "We're in a global race to develop and deploy electric vehicles, and we must play to win." Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA), a long-time Congressional leader on raising fuel economy standards, said at the press conference, "Our oil addiction is. . .helping to send resources to terrorists." In reference to last year's disastrous BP oil spill, he added, "It isn't just foreign oil that's dangerous."
This week's EDTA conference participants include a whole new and exciting combination of interests: auto, battery, and EV charging equipment manufacturing companies, smart grid technology companies, utilities, fleet management companies, universities, government agencies, and environmental and public health groups. As an environmental advocate, it's refreshing for me to see companies try to figure out how to make money on a set of products with the potential to significantly reduce dangerous auto emissions. The amalgamation of smart corporate investments, strategic government policies, and new consumer choices will be a win-win-win for corporate bottom lines, our environment, and our health.
(First photo credit: Anita Rajan; second and third photo credit: Gina Coplon-Newfield.)
-- Gina Coplon-Newfield, Sierra Club Senior Campaign Representative for Electric Vehicles