We interviewed Austin Energy about their Electric Drive program in Austin, Texas, which we recently distinguished with a Smart 50 Award. Austin has robust goals around energy sourcing; and the community has rallied around plans set forth by Austin Energy, the only electricity provider in town. Learn more about their program here:
Electric Drive is a showcase of sustainable mobility so the more people that see how easy it is to keep an electric vehicle charged, the more likely they are to go electric. This urban revitalization of a street is an example of how the City of Austin pursues its sustainability and net-zero carbon emissions goals. The showcase of clean energy and transportation addresses climate protection in Austin through mobility solutions. The kiosk’s innovative design helps to engage and educate station users about solar energy and electric bicycle charging by engaging the community through data. The Fast Charger allows electric vehicle drivers to charge in minutes as opposed to hours with standard level 2 charging. Furthermore, all the charging stations are powered by 100% renewable energy from Texas wind. The renewable energy supports the clean mobility project. Electric Drive educates Austin locals and its visitors through solar and electric vehicle charging while encouraging the community to follow sustainable transit models. Electric Drive is powering electric vehicle mobility needs through renewable energy and promotes electric transportation for a cleaner grid and Austin.
Q: What does the term ‘smart city’ mean to you, and how does your project contribute to a larger smart city vision?
A: Electric Drive meets today’s sustainability needs and has the ability to expand for future growth. The ability to adapt, expand, grow, and meet the demands of growing city is what defines a “smart city.” Austin Energy supports the City of Austin’s goal to be the most livable city in the nation, which includes a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 and contributes to a sustainable city through aggressive renewable energy mandates and electrifying transportation with a robust charging network. Electric Drive is a mobility showcase in the Seaholm EcoDistrict featuring bike sharing, car sharing, access to the hike-and-bike trail, and charging options for electric transportation. All the charging done on Electric Drive is 100% renewable either through solar energy with the kiosk or wind energy with the charging stations through the Austin Energy GreenChoice program. This project fits perfectly in Austin’s Smart City roadmap providing the community with faster, cleaner, and more affordable transportation options while cutting vehicle emissions.
Q: Why is the implementation of your project transformational in our current society?
A: Electric Drive is an aspirational project that shows that the utility can lead the charge to electrify the City of Austin. Public education about energy production, consumption, and transportation has a big impact in the city. Electrifying transportation through sustainable design and innovation highlights the entire EcoDistrict concept in downtown Austin. The fast charger on Electric Drive is the most utilized charging station in Austin and one of the most utilized charging station in all of Texas. The solar-powered kiosk is the first of its kind in Austin that combines solar power and energy storage to charge electric bikes and scooters in a unique, clean way.
Q: What advice did you receive along the way that helped you complete your winning project?
A: The importance of collaboration was heavily stressed as advice to complete the Electric Drive project. Working hand in hand with the Office of Sustainability, Transportation Department, Public Works, and other public-private partnerships brought together strong like-minded organizations together for this project. This enabled us to complete the project successfully and overcome challenges along the way.
Q: What advice would you give a city community or a solution provider looking to implement a municipal-level project?
A: Strong community support and cross-departmental support is important to be able to successfully deploy a municipal-level project. In Austin, the citizens have been receptive to multi-model transit options that are accessible, affordable, and sustainable. Identifying the most important goals to your city is key to developing an effective municipal project. Accessibility, affordability, and sustainability are front and center in any urban redevelopment project in Austin. Focusing on serving your citizens and enhancing the quality of life are also keys to success.
Q: What does it mean to you to win the Smart 50 Awards?
A: The Smart 50 Awards showcases the best and most innovative projects around the globe. To be considered and to win an award in the mobility category is truly an honor. Electric Drive is an inspiration story in the City of Austin and to see the impact of that project be recognized on the global scale inspires us to keep innovative. This sustainable mobility development was a team effort through Austin Energy and other City of Austin departments.