A new consortium of electric vehicle stakeholders has just launched a new EV demonstration project that promises to boost President Obama's efforts to create a national EV infrastructure. Though consumer interest in EVs seems to surge with every spike in gas prices, a concerted public-private effort is needed in order to transform that desire into a workable mainstream alternative to fossil fuel-powered vehicles.
The public-private concept is nothing new, when you think of the public funds that generations of taxpayers have poured into creating our transportation infrastructure, which has long enabled the growth of private investment in automotive vehicles and in the fuels that propel them. The new Electrification Leadership Council includes both private sector industries and representatives from public sector agencies, so let's see what it brings to the table in terms of broadening the reach of public transportation dollars beyond fossil fuels.
Heavy Hitters Go to Bat for Electric Vehicles
The kickoff membership of the Electrification Leadership Council is an interesting mix of some of America's most familiar mainstream corporate and utility identities, along with some newcomers. The list includes FedEx, Hertz, Navistar, Azure Dynamics, A123 Systems, CODA Automotive, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, ECOtality, Automatiks, and GE Capital. In particular, FedEx's participation will come as no surprise to regular readers of TriplePundit. The company has positioned itself as a sustainability leader with initiatives such as an EV "rolling laboratory," a gigantic green roof at its O'Hare International Airport facility, and a high-visibility solar installation for the Washington Redskins' FedEx Field.
A Focus on Sustainability, Macro and Micro
Though the broad mission of ELC is to propel the US into a transportation paradigm that addresses global warming and energy security issues over the long term, its immediate focus is on improving environmental quality in densely developed urban areas. This approach has the potential to yield tangible results in a relatively short period of time, not only on raw air quality data but on quality of life impacts that a person-on-the-street could observe, namely a marked reduction in the noise and smells emitting from neighborhood traffic.
ELC's "EV Ecosystem" Demonstration Project
According to its press materials, ELC envisions its demonstration project as "a large-scale deployment of EVs within densely populated local markets where all of the components of an EV Ecosystem can be brought together to better understand the interoperability between EVs and the electric grid across a variety of vehicle classes and applications." In order to accomplish that, the consortium will gather a range of EV-related variables from the expected (for example, charging station locations) to some new considerations, such as the potential to squeeze the last ounces of juice from old EV batteries by reusing them in stationary arrays.
Leveraging "EV Readiness"
At this stage, ELC is still evaluating communities that could serve as incubators for its demonstration project. Rather than starting from scratch, the consortium will partner with communities that are already on the path to an EV transition and assist them in overcoming infrastructure and regulatory barriers, as well as factors that inhibit consumer acceptance such as price and aftermarket support. One important trend that ELC does not explicitly mention in its launch is the potential role of distributed renewable energy, such as solar EV charging packages for individual property owners, but that factor may emerge as the project progresses.
Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.