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June 14, 2013

The Mayor of Indianapolis Is Electrifying his City

EV3

Ever wonder how fueling a gasoline car compares in cost to fueling a plug-in electric car? At this week's annual Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) conference in Washington, D.C., the Department of Energy’s David Danielson announced a handy new web tool called eGallon that allows you to do just that. The site shows that on average in the U.S., it costs $3.65 per gallon in gasoline to fuel a car and the equivalent of only $1.14 per gallon to fuel a car with electricity.

The most interesting part of this tool is that you can search by all 50 states and D.C. to see how this differs throughout the country (check out your home state). In Illinois, for example, it costs an average of $3.84 per gallon with gasoline and $.99 per gallon equivalent in electricity to fuel a car. Danielson said DOE will update these numbers each month to reflect current gasoline and electricity prices in each state.

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The fueling cost differential adds to the growing case being made for just how cost competitive are plug-in vehicles these days, as many manufacturers have recently announced new lower pricing options, especially for leasing EVs.

EV2Another pleasant surprise at the EDTA conference for me was learning about Indianapolis and Paris. One of the conference's most powerful speakers was Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard. "The U.S. transportation sector and our quality of life are dependent on foreign oil," said Ballard, who is a Republican. "But electric drive offers us the opportunity to break that hold."

Ballard, who retired as a Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel after 23 years of service, also said, "Many people believe we're funding both sides of the War on Terror, and I agree."

Ballard has been putting his money where his mouth is in a number of ways when it comes to electric vehicles and moving beyond oil. He has been shifting the city’s vehicle fleet to hybrid and plug-in electric and has overseen the installation of 80 EV charging stations. He also announced that he will bring the French company Bolloré’s electric car-sharing program, now highly popular in Paris, to Indianapolis as the first U.S. city to experience e-car sharing. This investment will also lead to about 200 new EV charging stations throughout the Indianapolis area.

The e-car sharing program in Paris is called Autolib'. There are currently 4,200 electric car charging stations throughout Paris and its suburbs, making Paris the most electrified city in the world, said Bolloré’s Hervé Muller. In speaking on an EDTA conference workshop panel, Muller maintained that car-sharing has actually increased Paris metro usage because it improves many people’s access to transit. He said that 70 percent of Autolib’ customers don’t own a car.

Mike Saft of the battery technology company Leydon Energy spoke on a panel about start/stop battery technology advancements that are helping electric and gasoline powered vehicles achieve greater efficiencies. He said that increasingly vehicles are enabling gravity to be the propulsion system, which reminds me of solar power. It’s always the most powerful combination when we can look to human ingenuity to harness clean sources of power from Mother Nature.

Overall, the conference offered many useful learning and networking opportunities. Next year’s EDTA conference will be in, you guessed it, Indianapolis.

By Gina Coplon-Newfield, Sierra Club’s Director of Green Fleets & Electric Vehicles Initiative

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