Banking on the Future of Electric Cars
by: Laurie Johnson, November 17, 2009 4:11:18 pm
Houston's sprawl and miles of freeways aren't the most welcoming environment for electric vehicles. But the City of Houston's new hybrid plug-ins rely on a mix of gasoline and electricity to get around.
The electric vehicle pilot project is in partnership with Reliant Energy. Houston Mayor Bill White, a long-time green energy proponent, says he wants Houston to take the lead in the state on reducing dependence on oil.
"So we have a fair number of vehicles, ten vehicles to begin with we're getting another five soon, that are these 100-plus mpg vehicles that are powered in part through electricity."
Ten electric cars might not seem like a lot. But the bigger investment for this pilot project is the charging stations. Reliant will install ten stations in various locations. Seven of them will be open to the public Reliant President Jason Few says building out the infrastructure for electric cars is part of the company's business strategy.
"We firmly believe that there is a business model behind it. We believe that there will be mass adoption of fully electric vehicles and certainly you're already seeing that with hybrid vehicles today and plug-in hybrid vehicles. But we definitely think there's a business opportunity for that."
Several charging stations will be in place at City Hall. In fact there's one outside the visitor's center already. To power up at one of the city stations, drivers will wave a card in front of the sensor, much like you do at your grocery store gas station. The programmed card will unlock the power station letting you plug in and charge up from there.
"There's a chicken and egg situation. The more power stations you have then the more people feel that they can buy the vehicles. And as you have scaled up the adoption of hybrids where people are familiar with the hybrids and you get the production lines going on batteries as well as hybrids, you'll get more and more demand for the product. And by the way, this is the way that the gasoline infrastructure was built. I mean 90 years ago, 80 years ago there would be fewer places to get fuel and then over time there were more and more places to get fuel as more and more people started driving."
And unlike gas stations, for the first year the power stations will be free of charge to the public. And you probably won't even have to wait in line.
Above photograph taken by Richard J. Carson, photographer.