Electric Cars Lead Cities To Amp Up

April 15, 2011

Better get ready for electric vehicles – if you want to stay with the times. That seems to be the message that some two dozen U.S. cities have gotten and are responding to with ambitious plans.

On Wednesday, Ford Motor Company released its list of the top 25 most electric-vehicle ready cities, and the focus by the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker may be just what electric vehicles (EVs) need to get a jumpstart in consumer acceptance.

After all, you need a place to charge those EVs, don’t you? Most likely, you’ll want to charge them at home, but you also need to feel secure in the knowledge that where you’ll be driving, there’ll be charging stations available. You want to be able to use your car’s navigation system or your smart phone to locate them and find out if they’re available (not in use). Special signage to clearly identify charging stations will also help ease consumer angst. You don’t want to get lost and run out of juice before you get to the charging place.

FamilyCarGuide took a look at some of the efforts that a few of the 25 cities identified by Ford are doing to speed up their readiness for EVs. Here they are in no particular order.

Houston, Texas – Think of Houston, or any city in the vast Lone Star State, and you automatically think of gas-guzzling behemoths. But Houston was actually among the early adopters of EVs with its city-owned fleet of Toyota Priuses. In addition, Houston is converting more city-owned vehicles to plug-in hybrids this year and adding 100 all-electric Nissan Leafs to its fleet.

As for charging stations, Houston is working with power producer NRG Energy and subsidiary, Reliant, to prepare the city with public charging stations. This is part of a pilot program that started in 2009.

City Mayor Anisse Parker pledged this year to issue permits for installation of home charging stations within 24 hours and electricians can obtain immediate online approval to install chargers. Parker also gave the go-ahead for people who drive the Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf to use highway HOV lanes.

But Houston isn’t the only Texas city to make the top 25 EV-ready city list. Dallas and Austin are also among the ones identified. Heck, it takes a whole day to traverse the state. Maybe some other Texas cities need to get on board. San Antonio, anyone?

All-new 2012 Ford Focus Electric

All-new 2012 Ford Focus Electric

Enlarge Photo

Phoenix, Arizona – Phoenix (and Tucson) are “pretty good fits” for the electric vehicle industry, according to the Phoenix Business Journal, which said that Ford lumps the two cities together in its list of the 25 most electric-vehicle ready cities. Phoenix is also one of 19 markets where Ford will roll out its 2012 Ford Focus Electric later this year.

Phoenix and Tucson are included in the EV Project, a development by San Francisco-based Ecotality, Inc. About half of the about $230 million project is paid for by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The project’s goal is to develop a public infrastructure for a network of charging stations to help extend the range of electric vehicles. Ecotality and its (Phoenix) Valley-based unit, Ecotality North America, have been rolling out 14,000 chargers in 18 major cities in six states. Nissan and General Motors are partners. The Phoenix Business Journal quotes Ford’s Mike Tinskey, manager of vehicle electrification and infrastructure, as saying, “Phoenix is doing a good job because of the Ecotality project.”

Portland, Oregon – The Portland Tribune reports that Tinskey praises Portland’s efforts to get ready for electric vehicles. The city deserves credit for partnering with the federal government and private companies to install public charging stations for electric vehicles. Tinskey also saluted Portland General Electric for partnering with Ford and other companies in researching how to overcome the challenges ahead for electric vehicles, including the need and how to educate the public on their potential to reduce dependence on foreign oil.

The New York Times reports that former Oregon Governor Ted Kulongosky worked to create EV charging networks, including half-hour fast charging. The charging networks are linking several urban enclaves, including Portland, Corvallis, Salem, and Eugene.

Of interest to FamilyCarGuide in the publication’s reportage is the statement by Tinskey that Ford is partnering with Best Buy to provide a home charging unit that will fully recharge the 2012 Ford Focus Electric batteries in around three hours. The cost will be about $1,499, including installation. “Under ideal circumstances,” Tinskey said, the Ford Focus Electric should go about 100 miles between full charges.

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