Could Your City Be An E-Lympian?
By Bill Moore
Posted: 12 Dec 2009
I had an interesting conversation late yesterday afternoon with SunEdison founder and now the CEO of Richard Branson's Carbon War Room, my friend Jigar Shah. We were talking about the Electrification Coalition's Roadmap, a blueprint of sorts for hastening the deployment of electric-powered transportation, specifically the cars and trucks that carry the majority of U.S. citizenry about their daily activities here in America.
The Coalition, made up of significant public and private interest groups and leaders, issued their Electrification Roadmap in mid-November 2009 and you can watch the entire press conference and follow-on panel discussion here on EV World. The coalition envisions in their report a two phase process in which, in phase one, a small number of communities, six to eight at most, become model cities in which tens of thousands of "grid electric vehicles" or GEVs, i.e. plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles, are concentrated. Once these communities have successfully demonstrated -- and worked out the kinks -- the model would then be cloned by a couple dozen other cities and gradually grow from there; the goal being that by 2040, fully 75% of all light duty vehicle miles traveled would be powered by electricity.
It's a great proposal, both Jigar and I agreed, but how do we actually make it happen, he asked me? How do you keep it from being stuffed into a file cabinet or shoved unto a bookshelf, joining all the other well-intentioned proposals proffered lo' these many decades?
We began brainstorming a bit and he asked me to think it over and we'd keep the dialogue going. It being late Friday afternoon and I really wasn't in the mood to think about anything else, much less sit at the computer, I grabbed my always-handy legal pad and starting drawing boxes and lines and funny-looking stick people, as well as the dumbest looking electric car you can imagine [see scan above]; one with a oblong box buried in the floorboard labeled "+" and "-": the battery. I was trying to visualize how an ordinary city became (with apologies to all the great Olympic cities past, present and future) an E-lympian, one of those select six-to-eight communities with the resources, talent and attitude to lead the nation in the deployment of 10-20,000 GEVs each and do it with D-Day like intensity.
Finding the right communities to incubate the Electrification Roadmap seemed to me the first step in moving it from the press conference phase to the people-driving-GEVs-daily phase. I started thinking about what kinds of communities would be great places to nurture and grow the concept. In pretty short order, I filled the legal pad with bullet points; activities and attitudes that -- to my mind -- would make such a city fertile ground for showing the tens of thousands of other communities from Bangor, Maine to San Diego, California how to transition to an EV-centric city.
I'll share those bullet points with you on the understanding that I do so to encourage you to think about what qualities and qualification a city should have if it decides to become an "E-lympian." We already know that the major OEMs like GM and Nissan, even BYD now it seems, are looking at Southern California as the first region they are likely to introduce their GEVs, the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf and BYD E6, respectively. Jigar suggested that the places with the highest per capita ownership of Toyota Priuses would be a good starting point.
Here is my bullet point list, in no particular order at the moment. Use the reader comment form below to share your thoughts and suggestions.
E-Lympian City Selection Criteria
- Community has "vision plan" for what it wants to be or become in the next 25 years.
- It has demonstrated a commitment in the form of city, county and regional plans and policies to control sprawl.
- Operates or is developing an alternative fuel-driven public transit system: electric, biofuels, compressed natural gas.
- Has in place or is beginning strategic regional planning for coping with a future of constrained petroleum supplies.
- Is planning and, better yet, has in place programs to reduce the community's overall carbon footprint.
- Is implementing initiatives to encourage greater use of "active" mobility modes, i.e. bicycle paths, lanes, clustered development, etc.
- Has instituted or is developing specific building and zoning codes to facilitate the installation of electric vehicle charging stations, public and private, commercial and residential.
- Has city department dedicated to promoting alternative energy and conservation both within the city's administration -- including public works fleet -- businesses and private citizenry, including in the public school system.
- City fleet has plan in place to shift entire fleet over to alternative fuels as budgets permit and vehicles are replaced.
- Regional energy providers, electric utilities in particular, have implemented Renewable Energy Portfolios with aggressive installation, integration and operational schedules.
- City administration and electric power provider have established a joint initiative to support the development and integration of Vehicle-to-Grid, as well as Smart Grid programs.
- Community electric power provider has instituted, at the very least, a 1:1 net metering program. More points would be awarded for institution of an aggressive Feed-In-Tariff program.
- Has public finance mechanism in place (levies, taxes, bonds, etc.) to sustainably self-fund these efforts without federal support.
Perhaps the most fundamental question of all though is does the entire concept of E-lympian communities, where GEVs are concentrated, make more sense than leavening small numbers of electric vehicles across more communities? Or maybe there's a happy middle ground?
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