Letters and Opinion

Indiana leads charge on electric cars

September 18, 2010

In Indianapolis, it looks like the electric car is much closer to rounding the corner, with Energy Systems Network’s recent announcement that the partnership is launching a pilot project that will, it seems, make electric commutes a reality here and eventually across the United States.

Project Plug-IN, is focused on putting over 100 electric cars on the road in the greater Indianapolis region.

This is on the heels of electric vehicle manufacturer Think’s announcement to produce its Think City car in Elkhart in 2011. Capable of keeping up with highway traffic and with a range of about 100 miles, the electric Think City is another example of how an efficient electric vehicle good enough to replace gas-powered cars and trucks would undoubtedly reduce our dependence on petroleum. It would have a positive effect on climate change and pollution. It could revitalize the domestic automobile industry.

There are still a number of hurdles we must clear before we can park our gas-dependent cars in the garage for good. Manufacturing a workable vehicle is only half the solution. The other half of the challenge focuses on the logistics and processes of how and where to provide convenient recharging.

Our power grid must become intelligent. In a smart grid, digital sensors are deployed throughout the distribution network. Powerful analytics software evaluates the torrent of information provided by the sensors to help utilities optimize customer demand and available supply.

On the consumer end, smart meters installed in the home provide customers near-real-time information on what it costs to power appliances, lights and all the other electrical devices–cars included. Armed with this information, individuals could make more informed choices about energy consumption.

But smart grids are just the first step. Drivers will not always be charging up at home. During longer trips, they will need access to charging stations—especially as battery life improves and the time for a complete charge is reduced to a few minutes. Given Project Plug-IN’s goal of locating at least 100 local charge-up sites at parking garages, malls, hotels and other parking facilities, we’re on the right road.

Our region has a vested interest in the success of electric cars. Think is powering its vehicles with lithium-ion batteries produced by EnerDel in central Indiana and numerous other companies with ties to Indiana are backing the Electric Systems Network. The cities and societies that get this right will have a competitive advantage that will be difficult to overcome. Indiana must be at the forefront of this revolution.

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Kent Holcomb
Indianapolis senior state executive
IBM Corp.

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