Utility encouraging WiFi-connected EVSE 2control grid-load

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Austin Energy tries to encourage Austinites to buy electric cars
January 18, 2019  Jack Craver

[image  / austinenergy.com
(Bolt EV @L3 EVSE)

Last week, the city of Austin was awarded a coveted $2.5 million grant from
a foundation funded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to pursue a
number of environmental initiatives focused on energy efficiency and green

While the Transportation Department will be using part of the grant to zero
in on getting people out of their cars, Austin Energy is leading an effort
to get the vast majority of Austinites who do drive to opt for electric

At a Monday meeting of the Electric Utility Commission, Austin Energy staff
and members of the commission discussed the challenge of getting drivers to
go electric. One of the big problems: car dealerships.

“Salesmen don’t like to sell these things because they don’t make any money
and the dealer doesn’t either,” explained Commissioner Michael Osborne, who
is also chair of the board of the Texas Electric Transportation Resources
Alliance, an advocacy group.

The problem, said Osborne, is that electric vehicles don’t require nearly as
much maintenance and rarely need major repairs. Since dealerships make much
of their money servicing the vehicles they’ve sold, they’re not as motivated
to sell electric cars. Thus, dealers tend to offer their sales reps less
generous commissions for electric vehicles.

There are roughly 6,800 electric vehicles in Austin. That puts the city
above average, said Karl Popham, manager of electric vehicles and emerging
technologies for Austin Energy.

The electric car market nevertheless remains decidedly niche, mostly
occupied by those who are passionate enough about the technology to seek out
an electric vehicle on their own. Rarely, however, does a consumer go to a
car lot to browse and end up leaving with a new electric vehicle.

Popham said he has heard “horrendous” stories from people trying to buy
electric cars. They often receive inaccurate information about the mileage
that the cars can get per charge or the federal and state tax credits
available for electric vehicle purchases.

Over the next two years, Popham’s team will reach out to dealerships to
provide education on the vehicles in hopes of boosting electric vehicle

“With the right educational tools and messaging in place, we commit to
complete training and outreach to 100 percent of regional car dealerships
that show strong demand for electric vehicles by December 2020,” said the
work plan that the city submitted for the Bloomberg grant. “With assistance
from the Climate Challenge and enhanced dealership education for electric
vehicles, we think the Austin region will have over 10,000 electric vehicles
on the road by 2020.”

This new effort supplements existing initiatives that Austin Energy has put
in place to facilitate EV adoption. The utility already has more than 650
charging stations around its service area. Drivers get unlimited access for
only $4.17 a month.

While many EV owners plug their cars into ordinary electric outlets in their
garages, AE offers rebates that cover 50 percent of the cost of purchasing
and installing a 240 volt charging station, which charges the cars faster.
The maximum rebate for a normal station is $900, but the utility offers an
even bigger rebate ($1,200) for Wi-Fi-connected stations.

The goal with connected charging stations, explained Debbie Kimberly, who is
in charge of the utility’s energy efficiency programs, is to allow AE to
reduce the charge during peak demand (usually between 4 and 6 p.m.).
Thousands of AE customers are already enrolled in a similar program that
allows the utility to adjust their thermostats to reduce energy consumption
during peak demand.

The grant does not provide the city cash but rather $2.5 million “in a
technical support package that may include things like a full-time adviser
to work on the development and implementation of our projects, outreach
support, data analysis and technical support, stakeholder engagement
strategy and facilitation,” explained Amy Petri, a spokesperson for the
city’s Office of Sustainability.
[© austinmonitor.com]

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