As I look back over the year of providing content for Discovery’s revamped Website, I reflect on how far the auto industry and the infrastructure have come in integrating the two.
One of first pieces I penned here centered around daily struggles driving an electric vehicle. I was testing a Chevrolet Volt Extended-Range Electric Vehicle so thankfully I did not suffer from range anxiety associated with the likes of the Nissan Leaf or Mitsubishi i total EVs. Last year I could not find anywhere to recharge my test unit but, in less than a year, my how things have changed.
I still don’t have a home charging station but there are four public spots at the office building, two at the shopping village, and I see so many popping up all over the area now. And next to the EV spaces at work is a wind generator and up on the rooftop are solar panel arrays.
And there is a community in Austin, Texas that is said to be the highest concentration of EVs and is the center of a demonstration project studying the smart grid and sustainable living in a modern community, with OnStar and General Motors partnering in the project.
Early on, GM made 100 Chevy Volts available to residents of the 700-acre community and over the next five years researchers will study up to 1,000 residences in that area to learn how they interact with the grid.
More than a third of the homes have rooftop solar collectors so researchers will be looking at how this allows Volt owners to charge their vehicles in a new, cost-effective way while relieving some burden from the already overloaded electric grid.
During last year’s historic drought in Texas, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), who manages the grid, predicted future power outages if energy producers do not put more power plants online and soon. Adding plug-in vehicles to that grid each evening will only exacerbate the problem if alternatives are not found and with apps such as the OnStar Smart Grid API Volt owners can manage when their vehicles are recharged such as during non-peak hours (which, for many, equates to lower rates).
As the saying goes, “You’ve come a long way, baby.” There is still a long way to go but things are greening up and communities like the one in Austin may very well dictate the future of suburbia in America and a vehicle like the Chevy Volt could be the epitome of “One in every garage.”