As one of the most forward-thinking utilities in the U.S., Austin Energy has excelled in setting up the infrastructure and incentives needed to transition electric vehicles from behind the shadows. Now, it’s building upon this foundation to move electric vehicle adoption into the mainstream.
With more than 200 plug-in charging stations in its network — all within five miles of each other, making it perhaps the most concentrated nationwide — the municipal-owned utility is planning to add even more. It’s established partnerships with hospitals, hotels, office buildings and a range of businesses. Any of these entities will qualify for rebates on the cost of installing a charging station, as long as it’s available to the public.
A special focus is on multifamily housing and apartment buildings — key locations, said Austin Energy spokesperson Carlos Cordova, since 80 percent of charging is done at home.
“Just because someone is a renter doesn’t mean that he or she shouldn’t have access to charging because there’s no garage,” Cordova said.
New apartment buildings that build charging stations can receive points towards LEED certification.
And because the city is home to a lot of hi-tech workers — a segment of the population known to embrace EVs — many of these companies have installed charging stations at their workplaces, Cordova said, such as National Instruments, which has 10 stations on its campus.
But Austin Energy is going beyond consumer-level infrastructure. In a few weeks, it will help kick off a class at Austin Community College focusing on servicing and repairing EVs.
“It’s very timely, because most Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volts are still under warranty, so mechanics need to know how to work on these cars,” Cordova said.
Those who service EV fleets were given first priority to register, he added.
It also hopes to standardize the charging network in the Central Texas region, which runs from Georgetown south through Austin and down to San Antonio along the Interstate-35 highway corridor.
And it’s targeting more than just the main metropolitan area. One of the reasons why Austin Energy is focused on the region, according to Cordova, is because it’s home to a lot of public power utilities and co-ops, such as Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative.
“We want to provide a seamless experience,” Cordova said, “so a driver doesn’t have to [manage] two different payment systems. A driver should be able to drive down I-35 and be able to pull out one subscription charging card.”
EV charging photo CC-licensed by Redcorn Studios on Flickr.