The City Council Monday contemplated a jolt of mass-produced electric cars expected late this year and what the city can do now to encourage and prepare for the trend.
The topic of electric vehicles, or EVs as they're known, was discussed in two parts: an overview of efforts under way in Bellevue to encourage the fledgling industry; and recommendations on land-use code changes to allow EV infrastructure in non-residential areas.
Such efforts are part the city's wider Environmental Stewardship Initiative, which strives to create a sustainable urban habitat with clean air and water, habitat for fish and wildlife, and comfortable and secure places for people to live and work.
Council members were extremely interested in supporting the infrastructure for electric cars, including charging stations and battery exchanges, but want to make sure the new technology is a good fit in Bellevue.
Electric vehicles, already trickling into the mainstream, will get a big boost later this year when Nissan is scheduled to begin selling its compact Leaf, the first mass-produced EV. The car was unveiled last December in Bellevue as part of nationwide tour, and about 1,500 Leafs already have been pre-ordered by Washington state residents, according to an industry expert on hand Monday. Up to 12 other electric models are expected to be introduced in the next two years.
Some of the advantages of electric vehicles, compared to their petroleum-burning counterparts, include zero tailpipe emissions, less dependence on foreign oil and economic development opportunities involving the high-tech sector. Some of the issues the council considered included:
- Making city's vehicle fleet greener: One way for Bellevue to encourage electric vehicles is for the city to purchase them for its own vehicle fleet. Bellevue already owns 48 hybrid vehicles and one plug-in electric utility truck. Using federal grants, the city expects to purchase 82 more hybrids and plug-ins this year and in 2011.
- Charging stations: Stations range from the residential variety, which can charge a battery in four to 18 hours depending on the type of electrical service, to a 30-minute "fast charge" for public or commercial use. Public charging stations would feature smart technology that alerts drivers to their location and reads a credit card for payment.
- Vehicle fuel costs: The U.S. Department of Energy rates the fuel cost of an electric vehicle at the equivalent of 367 miles per gallon of gasoline, compared with 50 mpg for a hybrid Toyota Prius. For someone who drives 15,000 miles per year, that translates to $600 for an EV (4 cents per mile) and $1,950 for a gasoline-powered car getting 30 mpg (13 cents per mile).
- Land-use code changes: A 2009 state law requires cities such as Bellevue that border regional freeways and meet a population threshold to amend their development regulations by July 1 "to encourage the transition to electric vehicle use and to expedite the establishment of a convenient, cost-effective, electric vehicle infrastructure."
- Other issues: The council will also need to deal with EV infrastructure issues such as impacts on electricity supply and distribution, whether to require charging stations in new commercial buildings, and what requirements are needed to allow infrastructure in city rights of way, including curbside charging stations.
Bellevue is also working with city, regional and state organizations to coordinate EV infrastructure investments, and with two federal recipients -- ECOtality and Coulomb Technologies -- about including the city in pilot projects.
Council members will consider land-use code amendments regarding electric vehicle infrastructure at an upcoming meeting in late June or in July.
For more information on electric vehicle infrastructure efforts, read the Council memorandum at http://www.bellevuewa.gov/pdf/City%20Council/PacketExtendedStudySession6-14-103c.pdf; for recommendations on proposed land-use code amendments, check a separate memorandum at http://www.bellevuewa.gov/pdf/City%20Council/PacketExtendedStudySession6-14-103d.pdf.
Feedback: Sheida Sahandy, City Manager's Office, 425-452-6168 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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