Rolling out the infrastructure: Plug-ins for Boulder, Australia

elecvehicles-betterplace-renault.jpg Building out infrastructure for recharging is central to hastening large-scale adoption of plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles. Two promising pieces of news indicate that momentum continues to build.
Palo Alto plug-in vehicle infrastructure group Better Place announced agreements with AGL Energy and the banking Macquarie Group to begin deploying a network for recharging electric vehicles in Australia. AGL is to load the network with power from renewable sources; Macquarie is to raise AUD 1 billion to finance the project while Better Place is to build out the recharging point infrastructure.
Back home in Colorado, Xcel is carrying out the first and largest test in the country of two-way, grid-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-grid plug-in electric vehicle charging. Part of the regional energy utility’s SmartGridCity project, four converted vehicles are being used in first phase testing, all of which is taking place in the university and Rocky Mountain foothills town of Boulder, Colorado.

V2G in SmartGridCity
elecfuture.jpg Four vehicles will be used in Phase One of Xcel Energy’s SmartGridCity vehicle-to-grid (V2G) and vice-versa test. An Xcel Energy PHEV has been converted so that it is capable of sending power back into the grid as well as taking power from it to recharge. Special inverters are being installed on three Boulder County Prius PHEVs. When connected to the grid, Xcel will be able to pull power from their batteries during peak usage periods. If funding is acquired, the second phase of the project entails V2G conversions another 60 PHEVs from the City of Boulder and University of Colorado fleets.
“Testing this type of technology on Boulder County vehicles is a natural fit,” said Ben Pearlman, chair of the Boulder County Commissioners. “Once these vehicles are converted, we will be able to use the energy generated by the solar panels we installed at the Courthouse designed to power these three vehicles, lowering both our carbon footprint and the overall operating costs for our County fleet.”
A consortium of public and investor-owned organizations has come together to carry out Xcel Energy’s SmartGridCity project. Representing the public interest are the City of Boulder, the University of Colorado, the Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment and the Governor’s Energy Office. Private sector partners are Accenture, Current, GridPoint, OSI Soft, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Smart Synch and Ventyx.
Xcel Energy is kicking in $150,000 to kick-start the SmartGridCity project, including $75,000 to Boulder County for vehicle conversions, $55,000 to the City of Boulder for conversions and smart charging stations, and $20,000 to Spirae of Fort Collins for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to be used at the University of Colorado Chancellor’s Residence.
Xcel and its partners plan to apply for $6 million in federal and state funding to carry out the test’s second phase.
The federal government’s banking bailout and economic stimulus plan passed Oct. 3 includes $1 billion in tax credits to consumers who purchase PHEV and electric vehicles. The tax credits provide up to $7,500 per vehicle based on the power of the battery for the first 250,000 vehicles sold.
“The Smart Grid will not only improve how energy is delivered and consumed in our homes and work places, but it also could become an important catalyst for transforming our transportation systems,” said Boulder Mayor Shaun McGrath.
Better Place Australia
Down under, Better Place is joining with AGL Energy and Macquarie Bank to launch a nationwide renewable energy-based recharge infrastructure for PHEVs and electric vehicles, one that would replicate those it has built in Denmark and Israel, only on a larger scale.
There are nearly 15 million cars on the road in Australia – more than 1 million new cars being added last year – and the country has the seventh highest per capita rate of car ownership in the world.
“As the world’s sixth largest country, our network build out in Australia will demonstrate that the Better Place model works in all countries, regardless of size,” Shai Agassi, Better Place CEO and founder, said in a media release. “We are investing in Australia’s economy and adding jobs while helping the country take a generational leap forward toward oil independence.”
On top of the commitment of the company and its business partners, the Australian government is pitching in with a $500 million investment from its Green Car Innovation Fund. “There’s compelling case for automobile manufacturers to jump in and build clean, safe affordable electric cars for Australasia and Southeast Asia,” Agassi asserted.
Better Place has a partnership agreement with the Renault-Nissan Alliance as it looks to close the loop and work with auto manufacturers to get more PHEV and all-electric vehicles out on the road. The carmakers have agreed to develop electric cars with rollouts to begin as early as 2012 while Better Place builds and owns the charging stations and, in some cases, a network of battery exchange stations that would enable motorists to pull in, swap discharged battery packs for full ones and be quickly on their way.
“The Better Place business model is game changing and represents an exciting opportunity for Australian consumers, the environment, domestic automakers, the renewable energy sector, local industry and workers to move to the forefront of the energy revolution,” added David Roseman, head of infrastructure and utilities advisory, Australasia at Macquarie Capital Group.

An independent journalist, researcher and writer, my work roams across the nexus where ecology, technology, political economy and sociology intersect and overlap. The lifelong quest for knowledge of the world and self -- not to mention gainful employment -- has led me near and far afield, from Europe, across the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa and back home to the Americas. LinkedIn: andrew burger Google+: Andrew B Email:

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