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USA: Austin: proving ground for electric car

Austin: proving ground for electric car
Austin area could determine if technology succeeds

Updated: Sunday, 05 Aug 2012, 3:06 PM CDT
Published : Sunday, 05 Aug 2012, 3:06 PM CDT

Chris Sadeghi
AUSTIN (KXAN) – As gas prices go, so too go the frustrations of drivers who have learned to live with the burden of filling their cars with $3 gasoline.

But that does not mean they would not welcome some kind of alternative.

In Austin, electric cars are being given the opportunity to become that alternative in the future.

“On a couple of occasions, I have gone months without purchasing a drop of gasoline,” said Chevy Volt owner Tom Smith.

It is an emerging technology Austin Energy is buying.

The electric utility received approximately $650,000 in grant money last year to purchase the Charge Point stations that power electric cars.

The area was one of nine in the country to receive the grant.

There are now 113 stations in the network that can be found at parks, parking garages, supermarkets and restaurants.

“You can go to a meeting and recharge your car or go to lunch or go shopping,” said Smith.

Austin Energy has also paid nearly $100,000 in rebates for the almost 85 car owners who have installed the stations at home in an effort to encourage usage of the technology.

Indications are it is becoming more and more popular. Usage of the charge stations has nearly doubled just since December 2011.

But while the idea of beating the high price of gas sounds like a winner, powering vehicles with electricity comes with its own concerns.

“Imagine a neighborhood where electric cars were in every garage,” said Carlos Cordova, a spokesperson for Austin Energy.

“We want to study the impact the cars will have on the electric grid.”

Conservation is a lesson that is already heavily preached by energy companies everywhere and ERCOT is quick to ask Texans to turn off the lights during the high usage days in the hot summer.



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