The great electric car experiment: Texas town is a research project

Residents of a Texas town that is planned around a clean energy smart grid will receive incentives to buy electric cars so that researchers can determine the impact of increased household power consumption.
Written by David Worthington, Contributor
Residents of a planned Texas community that runs off of a clean energy power smart grid are receiving incentives to purchase electric and hybrid plug-in cars from General Motors. Most resident will receive a Chevy Volt.

A small Texas town located on the site of an abandoned airport made headlines in the New York Times today. Mueller is a master-planned community located just outside of Austin, Texas. It is also very likely the only town in the U.S. that runs on a clean energy smart grid.

General Motors, in partnership with the Federal government, university researchers, and some NGOs is equipping 60 out of 600 homes with electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles. The project is funded by a US$10.4 million Department of Energy grant, and is meant to measure the impact of an influx of electric cars on grid.

Utilities throughout the country are preparing for greater numbers of electric vehicles, and are guaranteed to be very keenly interested in the project's findings. Federal funds have already been distributed to New York's ConEdison to study how to support them; although, residents are contributing to the cost too.

There are likely to be critics who will criticize the pilot simply because it is associated with the Obama administration; others might see Mueller as a modern day Potemkin village. The Potemkin village is an historical myth about towns that were allegedly created to impress Russian monarch Empress Catherine II, which supposedly were no more real than a Hollywood movie set.

To them I note the small scale of this project in comparison to China's intention to build entirely eco-friendly cities. China has the political will and social willingness to make the effort amid globally significant events such as all of Greenland's surface ice melting away.

I think that the Mueller concept is a cool idea and look forward to learning how electric cars impact a home's energy profile. There was a time when bleeding edge science was cool and celebrated as a vision for a better tomorrow. Now, cynicism often rules the day. Let's try not to be cynical, and learn something.

(Image credit: Wikipedia Commons)

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