The future of electric vehicles (EVs) probably belongs to collaborations--between carmakers and governments, and carmakers and private companies. At least that's the way Richard Canny, CEO of Norway-based EV maker Think sees it.
Canny is on his way to the U.S. next week to try and further such projects. Before taking off, he announced an agreement with the Austrian government to supply Think City vehicles to the Vlotte EV Project in the Bregenz region. "This is the beginning of what we hope could become a number of different projects in Austria with Vlotte," Canny said in a cell phone call from Norway.
Projects like this are awesome, because by working with municipal utilities they have the option of helping develop "smart grids" that could, for instance, automatically recharge the cars only very late at night when power demand is the lowest. The juice can also go two ways, both from the grid into the cars and from the cars to the grid. That's called vehicle-to-grid or V2G, and it's looking very promising as a way to reduce peak loads and offset the need for future carbon-spewing power plants. Smarter, interactive grids are a cornerstone of the Obama energy plan.
In late February, Voralberger Kraftwerke in Bregenz took delivery of the first Think cars, which will be distributed to utilities, municipal workers and fleet operators in a pilot program. The total project is for 100 cars, and Think -- the only EV maker other than Tesla with certified, deliverable electric cars -- is likely to provide the majority of them.
Looking ahead, Think--which has been mired in recession-related financial challenges that have slowed new car production to a trickle--would love to emulate the Nissan-Renault Alliance and partner with cities (including San Diego last week) to build charging infrastructure and supply cars. "There's a lot of partnering in the development phase," Canny said. Other groups wiring cities and whole countries include the much-vaunted Better Place, Coulomb Technologies and a branch of the Rocky Mountain Institute, Project Get Ready. (The latter is actively looking for cities to sign up.)
"The future belongs to the electric vehicle," says Dr. Eveline Steinberger, managing director of the Austrian Federal Climate and Energy Fund. "This is a first example of the future link between the transportation sector, utility companies and information technology." Who can argue with her? Who would want to?
By the way, Canny denied that the Austrian announcement was any kind of April Fool's hoax. "If it was fake, we would have thought of something really outlandish," he said.
Here's a Vlotte video featuring Dr. Steinberger. It's very informative, but in German:
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