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How Your Community Could Get $1 Billion to Test EV Technology

The Electric Vehicle Deployment Act, now moving through the House and Senate, could set up incubator cities for electric vehicles.

Israel electric car

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Struggling electric vehicle startups, take heart: The government might provide a major cash injection into the burgeoning industry.

As President Barack Obama pledged to explore more sustainable energy options in the wake of the BP Gulf oil disaster, the House and Senate have introduced this week the Electric Vehicle Deployment Act, a bill that asks the Energy Department to offer up $800 million to $1 billion each for five to eight “deployment communities”–cities or transportation communities selected to become testbeds of EV technology.

If the bill passes, interested communities can submit applications in conjunction with utilities and local businesses. In the House version of the bill, each deployment community will be responsible for putting 700,000 EVs on the road within six years. And according to The Detroit News, Communities will also have to offer $2,000 each for the first 100,000 local residents who buy EVs.

EV startups are, of course, excited about the idea. In a statement, Jason Wolf, VP of North
America for Better Place, said, “One laudable
element of the EVDA is that it represents a technology neutral approach focused
on deployment, recognizing that we have the technologies today to make the transition
to electric vehicles. The bill also recognizes the role of third-party
operators in enabling a systemic approach to overcoming barriers to EV
adoption: such as range, price, and convenience–ultimately creating the
best conditions for mass EV adoption.” Better Place is working on a transportation infrastructure for EVs.

But big-name automakers aren’t quite as excited. The Detroit News explains:

The legislation “risks resulting in federal resources becoming overly concentrated in a small number of communities, which could establish electric cars as boutique vehicles,” said Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. The alliance is a trade association representing 11 automakers, including Detroit’s Big Three and Toyota Motor Corp.

It’s a valid point, but incubating EV technology in targeted communities makes sense. For an EV infrastructure to work, everyone has to be on board, including the local government, citizens, and utilities. By targeting efforts at specific communities, EVDA could prove–or disprove–the viability of a larger-scale EV infrastructure.

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Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more

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