News out Thursday that ECOtality, the Arizona based provider of clean electric transportation and storage technologies, announced that the U.S. Department of Energy has expanded The EV Project to include two new cities – Los Angeles and Washington, DC and has broadened the offer of free home chargers to include qualified new owners of the Chevrolet Volt with extended-range capability. The expansion also added an additional 1,000 Nissan LEAF zero-emission cars to the Project.
According to the company’s press release, “The mission of The EV Project is to collect and study data that will ultimately characterize how consumers actually use EVs in a wide range of climate conditions and geographies, as well as to create a model that will allow charging infrastructure to grow throughout the United States as a sustainable, stand-alone business that does not require long-term government support. Inclusion of the Volt now allows for the study of performance and use patterns for electric vehicles with extended-range capability.”
Funded by the combination of a $15 million Department of Energy grant and $15 million in private funding, the EV Project is another step in the public awareness campaign that is designed to maximize the buzz that the early adopters will create in high visibility areas like DC. The hope is that this type of data collection on usage patterns and performance will allow for a more targeted roll out of electric vehicles nationwide.
While the press release touts all of the potential long term benefits of EV usage like job creation, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and lessening the country’s dependence on fossil fuel, the company may be wise to steer clear of such lofty transformational forecasts. Though there’s great anticipation for the prospects of widespread EV usage someday, it should be promoted without Pollyanna’s rose colored glasses. It’s great to be passionate about new technologies but altering the course of a century of internal combustion transportation won’t be as simple as plugging in the toaster for breakfast, redeeming your federal clean energy voucher and bowing at the altar of zero emissions.
One of the project’s goals is to validate a viable business model for the charging infrastructure that doesn’t depend on government subsidies. That idea alone should help win support from some of the early detractors. A more tempered approach of under promising might just end up with a marketing campaign that actually does over deliver. Imagine that, for a change we can believe in.