Austin: Best city for clean car future?

Austin, Texas is known to be one of the most sustainable cities in the state, if not the entire U.S. And while the greenest form of transportation (bicycle) is promoted by one of its most famous residents, Lance Armstrong, it seems that the city is making great headway in electric cars and car-sharing programs.

The Statesman recently reported on Whole Foods installing an electric car charging station in their parking lot:

Whole Foods Market Inc. officials unveiled the company's first electric vehicle charging station Monday at the flagship store in downtown Austin.

Though the station is an experiment, more could be added as demand warrants, said Mark Dixon, Whole Foods' southwest regional president.

"We've always thought hard about environmental issues and what we can do to help that," he said. "To me, this is just a no-brainer."

The article goes on to say that the charging station is currently only 120 V (which would take a long time to put any meaningful charge into someone shopping for their weekly groceries) but a 220 V option will be added in later weeks.

Someone please go buy an EV (plug-in) and head to the Whole Foods in Austin and try this out for the Mapawatt readers.  Please?

Yet Whole Foods isn't the only company making headlines in sustainable transportation in Austin.  Recently, Popular Mechanics ran an article about Daimler's plans to operate a car sharing program in Austin called Car2Go.  The first two paragraphs state:

Daimler announced that car2go, its on-the-fly car rental program, launched in Austin, Texas, today with a fleet of 200 Smartcar fortwos that will be available for rent to members by October. Customers who register for car2go receive a membership card with an RFID tag that can open any car in the fleet and, in conjunction with a PIN code, acts as the key for the cars.

What sets this program apart from others like it, such as Zipcar, is that there is no need for preregistration, and the vehicles are "untethered." This means that "you don't have to decide upfront for how long you will be using thevehicle," says Jerome Guillen, director if business innovation at Daimler. "Therefore, there are no penalties," for going over a set time limit, he says.

You can find more information about the Car2Go program in Austin here on the Daimler site.  Earth2Tech had another good article on the Car2Go program stating that Daimler would use micro hybrids.  From what I can see, a micro hybrid doesn't use regenerative breaking or use any battery power for forward motion, but it does allow the gas engine to power off when the car comes to a stop.  From AutoBlogGreen announcing the release of the ForTwo micro hybrid:

The start-stop system will initially only be available with the 71hp gasoline engine and the automated manual transmission. When the vehicle comes to a stop the engine switches off and the clutch disengages. When the driver releases the brake, the engine automatically starts back up. The micro hybrid system is claimed to provide a fuel efficiency improvement eight percent from 50 to almost 55 mpg. Carbon dioxide emissions drop from 112 to 103g/km. The Smart ForTwo micro-hybrid goes on sale in October in Europe and the press release is after the jump.

This system will really only save gas in heavy traffic or if you sit at a lot of stop lights, but is a nice addition for city drivers.

I wish Mapawatt's home city of Atlanta, GA was doing more for sustainable transportation (we do have our own electric vehicle company - Wheego)!  We have some of the worst traffic in the U.S.  I'm an avid cyclist, but fear I'm putting my safety at risk every time I take to the roads due to the scarcity of bike lanes.  One of the Mapawatt team members is building an Electric Car, so I'm sure he would love more charging stations and a car sharing program would allow me to use our rail system more.

What is your city, community, or corporate leaders doing to encourage sustainable transportation?  Who are you talking to to get more done?

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Seattle: We're installing 200, 220V public charging stations at park-and-ride, vanpool and van-share sites - that's on top of the 2,000 charging stations that are going in this fall. We're also putting in a couple dozen 3-phase 440 quick charge stations along the I-5 corridor, that'll do an 80% charge on the Nissan LEAF in ~15 minutes. It's a bonus within the city limits of Seattle, as >90% of the power comes from emissions free hydro power, owned by the City. We're also dramatically expanding our extensive bike lanes and trails by $240 million dollars and another 450-miles, tripling the size of our light-rail in the next decade, have frequent commuter (heavy) rail in and out of the suburbs, implementing traffic sensitive/controlling HO-T (High occupancy or Toll) lanes, and just put in a congestion controlling sign system on I-5 into Seattle. Plugin spots: Bike expansion: Traffic controls:
I don't think that anyone is going to be able to compete with Seattle! Thanks for the summary.
This is a good start. The lack of leadership and enormous inertia from the complexity and political intertwining at the federal level makes local sustainability efforts essential. I hope that these local initiatives, both from the private sector and government, if successful, can continue to spread and add to individual efforts as articulated by MapaWatt.

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