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Plug In, Turn On, Drive Off

Plug In, Turn On, Drive Off
DECEMBER 31, 2010
BY KATE X MESSER – Austin Chronicle
Before the combustion engine pooted its way into the hearts and lungs of civilization, our nation was on the road to electric cars. Anyone who saw the 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? knows what happened next. (And for anyone who didn’t, it takes but one suck of a tailpipe to become enlightened.)

Daimler’s Smart USA recently announced the debut of new models, including the Electric Drive car for 2011. According to Eric Patterson, general manager of Smart Center Round Rock (the only Smart dealer in Central Texas and the service facility for Austin’s Car2Go fleet), the dealership “will sell electric Smart cars on a very limited basis for the first year and a half, beginning in spring 2011.” The flow of inventory will be slow but dedicated. “Austin is not currently prepared for a fleet of 300 electric cars from the charging perspective,” says Patterson. “We’ll get there, but we’re not there yet.”

According to Austan Librach, Austin Energy’s director of emerging transportation technologies, federal stimulus funding is going to finance some of that needed infrastructure. “We are one of nine cities that are subgrantees in a Department of Energy grant,” he says. The package was awarded to electric-vehicle charging station contractor Coulomb Technologies to provide 200 public charging stations ready for installation by the second quarter of 2011, located at both public- and private-sector facilities across Austin.

While electric vehicles offer transportation without direct carbon emissions from the tailpipe, electricity still comes from the same old grid, which in Austin is powered by a mix of fossil fuels, nuclear energy, and renewables (mainly wind). The good news there, says Librach, is that because “90 percent of private car charging will happen at night … most of that energy will be provided by West Texas wind… READ MORE.