Solving Cities

Make way for the electric car: Which cities do it best?

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With gas prices topping $5 per gallon in some states, the case for electric cars is more compelling than ever.

Innovative investments, partnerships, and policy changes made by cities are giving a boost to electric cars like this Nissan Leaf. (Mariordo/Flickr)

With gas prices topping $5 per gallon in some states, the case for electric vehicles (EV) is more compelling than ever.

Yet, in spite of the economic benefits to consumers, federal funding, and the fanfare surrounding America's return to electric vehicles (celebrated by the debut of The Revenge of the Electric Car last year's Tribeca Film Festival), just a few communities are prepared to take advantage of the benefits electric vehicles provide.

In Feb. 24 media teleconference, the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) recognized four of these communities -- Austin, Tx., Los Angeles, Ca., Normal, Ill.; and Mercer Island, Wash. -- for their commitment to EV technology and infrastructure.

"These cities are truly the pioneers of electric drive across America," said Brian Wynne, president of the EDTA.

Collectively, the four cities provide a blueprint of best practices for other cities interested in investing in renewable energy:

Austin, Texas

By pairing its 116 citywide Plug-In EVerywhere public access stations with GreenChoice, a program that allows consumers to purchase electricity from wind and biogas facilities, Austin Energy is piloting the first 100 percent renewable EV charging network. Current EV drivers can purchase six-months of charging station access for $25. (Six months of gasoline costs the average American $2,316.54, according to a 2011 study by CNN Money.)

Normal, Illinois

Mayor Chris Koos is hoping to turn his city of 52,000 residents into an EVTown through partnerships with Mitsubishi an other local corporations. In addition to federal tax rebate on electric cars, Normal residents will be able eligible for special state and local tax breaks that bring the price of the Mitsubishi i down from $29,195 to $21,625. Mitsubishi is helping to install 30 high-speed charging stations as well.

Mercer Island, Washington

The City of Mercer Island has streamlined the process for obtaining a permit to install a home EV charger.

Los Angeles, California

To track EV charging patterns and to better ascertain where to allocate future resources, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is offering $2,000 rebates to offering the first 1,000 residential customers who purchase an electric vehicle and install a charger and time-of-use meter in their homes.

Photos (from top): Mariordo/Flickr, Stu Seeger/Flickr, Ross Griff/Flickr, Liz Lawley/Flickr, and Channone Arif/Flickr

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Claire Lambrecht

Contributing Writer

Claire Lambrecht has written for the New York Times, Slate, Salon, The Nation, and CBS MoneyWatch. Previously, she taught English as a Teach for America Corps Member and Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. She holds degrees from Cornell University, the University of Hawaii, and the Arthur M. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure