Washington, DC – In what will probably be his last auto show as the Secretary for the Department of Energy (DOE), Dr. Steven Chu started his 2013 Washington Auto Show speech with an amazing fact, “We (the United States) spend roughly $1 billion dollars a day on foreign oil.”

United States Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu

Acting on behalf of the Obama Administration, Chu announced, “the Workplace Charging Challenge. It calls upon employers to provide chargers to their employees. The goal of the challenge is to increase the number of U.S. employers offering workplace charging by tenfold in the next five years.“

Dr. Chu talked about dilemmas in his speech, “about 40% of people are renters, that live in apartments, condos, etc . Another opportunity is charging at the workplace, their car spends as much time at the workplace as at home. I don’t have a car, I usually ride a bicycle or walk to work, but if I did have a car, my car would spend more time at the workplace, than at home.”

At the 2013 Washington Auto Show, James J. Gowen, Verizon’s Vice President – Supply Chain Operations and Chief Sustainability Officer, told me that Verizon asked their employees at four different locations if Verizon, the company, were to pay for the electricity would the employees buy Electric Vehicles (EV)s. Eighty percent of them said yes.

Verizon is going to install employee electric charging units in four of its workplaces in NJ, VA, TX and CA which house the 8,000 employees queried. Verizon will likely start with a couple of charging units at each workplace that would allow eight vehicles to charge at one time. Gowen said future charging units would be driven by the employees purchasing more plug-in vehicles thereby resulting in a demand for more units.

A charging station runs about $10,000. Gowen says there is no financial incentive from the Government, but the DOE is working to expedite the permitting. The DOE says it will also provide technical assistance and establish a forum for Partners and Ambassadors to share information.

The first 13 employers include: 3M, Chrysler Group, Duke Energy, Eli Lilly and Company, Ford, GE, GM, Google, Nissan, San Diego Gas & Electric, Siemens, Tesla and Verizon. The eight stakeholders include: California PEV Collaborative, CALSTART, Electric Drive Transportation Association, Electrification Coalition, International Parking Institute, NextEnergy, Plug In America and the Rocky Mountain Institute.

At the DC auto show, Nissan announced that it would triple the current electric vehicle quick-charging infrastructure in the U.S. with the addition of at least 500 charging stations in the next 18 months. In its press release, Nissan said it and it’s that, along with its charging infrastructure partners, they estimate that about 160 fast chargers are currently available for public use across the country but none and no fast chargers are currently available for public use in Washington DC. Most electric vehicle (EV) drivers now rely on home charging, and having additional charging options could significantly increase the rate of EV driving.

Philadelphia’s Indianapolis Mayor George Ballard spoke at the DC auto show after Secretary Chu. Ballard said that in November 2012, he signed an Executive Order to convert Indianapolis’ entire fleet to “post-oil technology by 2025.” Ballard is a retired Marine and thinks that our national dependence on oil compromises our national security, “Being held hostage (by foreign oil) makes us more vulnerable with less strategic leverage. And there are real costs: the tragedy of war, families being separated, not to mention the $85 billion, estimated annually, outside the cost of the wars, to protect the oil infrastructure around the world so that we can send our money to people that want to do us harm,” he said.

Ballard laid out his plan. First, the non-emergency fleet would become EV, saving $12,000 per vehicle annually, over the life of the vehicle, on fuel and maintenance costs. The second phase will entail working with partners to convert heavy fleet snowplows, trash trucks and eventually, fire apparatus, to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). The third phase will involve joining with car manufacturers to develop an electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid police car.

In a pamphlet Ballard’s office put together titled “Changing the World, Indy’s move to post-oil vehicles” Ballard asserts, “If a car manufacturer could produce a police car that gets 40-50 miles per gallon, while meeting all the necessary power, safety, range and size needs of a modern urban police force, Indianapolis and similarly sized cities could save up to $10 million per year.”


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