Indianapolis to demonstate plug-in electric vehicles

February 18, 2010

A plug-in electric-vehicle demonstration program in the Indianapolis area could begin as early as this spring, an official for clean-energy consortium Energy Systems Network said Thursday morning.

Paul Mitchell, CEO of ESN, said officials are working to use plug-in hybrids made by several manufacturers, including Norwegian car maker Think Global, which plans to manufacture U.S. models in the northern Indiana city of Elkhart.

Another is the Leaf, Nissan’s first electric-only vehicle, and an electric version of the diminutive Smart car.

“Indianapolis will be the first launch market for all of North America for them,” Mitchell said of Smart.

Mitchell spoke about the demonstration program following his participation in a Going Green panel discussion hosted by IBJ at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown hotel. (See video below.)

About 50 to 100 plug-in vehicles likely will be placed into city, state government and some corporate fleets.

The public would also be given the opportunity to drive the vehicles at various events. ESN will put up a Web site where customers can learn more about the vehicles prior to their sale.

Indianapolis would be among the first U.S. cities to demonstrate the new technology prior to auto manufacturers bringing the cars to market as early as next year.

The demonstration will also seek to expose and overcome practical challenges of electric cars, such as deploying electric charging stations at the workplace. Software to conduct billing also must be developed, as some drivers may live in the service territory of one utility but work in a territory served by a different utility.

Some of the charging stations could be placed at Indianapolis International Airport, at Simon Property retail locations and at Dennison Parking garages.

The demonstration also will test ways to encourage motorists to charge vehicles at home during off-peak hours. Duke Energy and Indianapolis Power & Light have been key participants in the project.

ESN is an initiative under the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership.

Indiana has a lot at stake in the success of both plug-in electric and gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles. Besides the Think factory in Elkhart, a number of hybrid components are being designed and manufactured in central Indiana, including lithium-ion batteries by EnerDel, with facilities on the northeast side of Indianapolis and in Noblesville.

EnerDel supplies batteries to Think and its parent company, New York-based Ener1, is a large investor in Think.


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