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A Trio Of Smart Cities: How Technology Makes Them More Efficient

A smart city is one that is currently testing or regularly using information, communications and technology (ICT) solutions in at least three areas, states IHS. These can include areas like transportation, safety, energy and the physical infrastructure of the city. It is estimated that the number of smart cities will rise dramatically over the next decade with projects in the U.S. and Europe embracing these energy-efficient solutions.

Currently, there are some cities in the United States that have adopted smarter and more efficient technological systems. For example, consider the following trio:

New York City

The Big Apple has been working towards a smart city mindset for some time. For example, they have already implemented a program called City 24/7, which is an interactive platform that combines data from government programs, residents and businesses to offer information to people at all hours of the day, notes Cisco. The City 24/7 smart screens combine touch, voice and audio commands to let people know about important information and services in the immediate area. In addition, people can access the smart screens through Wi-Fi on their own mobile devices. So, if you are visiting New York City and are trying to figure out where you should go for dinner, you can access reviews of local bars and restaurants that are in your immediate area as well as get discounts on meals right on your smartphone.

Another project that is helping make New York a smart city is Hudson Yards, located in Manhattan. The massive, 28-acre residential and commercial project will feature amazing and innovative systems like pneumatic tubes that are installed underground and will take garbage out of the area. In addition, Hudson Yards will feature technology that will allow it to keep tabs on air quality and energy consumption.

San Francisco

The leaders and citizens of San Francisco have been working hard for years to make the city as smart as possible, Freshome notes. For example, the city currently gets over 40 percent of its power from renewable energy sources, and there are a whopping 110 public charging stations for electric vehicles—the highest number in the country. In addition, San Francisco is working hard to make its public transportation system as user-friendly and accessible as possible. There are now more trains and buses than ever, and apps available through the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency offer real-time updates about commutes and other related information. The city also offers its citizens an impressive number of free Wi-Fi spots; for example, on Market Street in downtown, there are 3 miles straight of Wi-Fi hotspots.

Boston

Like San Francisco, Boston has been trying to use technology to boost the quality of life for its residents and visitors. For example, the city features Soofas, which are benches that use solar power to keep tabs on air quality and noise levels as well as to charge mobile devices and other items. Additionally, the Boston Department of Innovation and Technology has launched five apps that help residents do anything from finding parking to helping parents keep tabs on their child’s school bus. Boston also posts maps that identify some of the city’s “Wicked Free” Wi-Fi locations.

Go Green With An Energy-Efficient Car In 2014

The average miles per gallon (mpg) for all new cars purchased from October 2007 to February 2014 in the U.S. was 25.2, according to the University of Michigan’s Transport Research Institute. That number represents a near 5 mpg increase from February 2008.

Average mpg will need to increase substantially more in the next 10 years to reach the Obama Administrations goal of 54.5 mpg for all new 2025 models. But fuel efficient automobiles are still fast becoming the rule, as opposed to the exception. Here are reviews of three of the most energy efficient cars for 2014.

Mitsubishi i-MiEV

The i-MiEV is one of the least expensive electric vehicles on the market, but as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. The electric and gas combination gets the i-MiEV an astounding 111 MPGe, a measure that indicates how far the car can travel electrically on the energy produced from one gallon of gas with a full battery. The battery has a range between 56 and 62 miles before the engine kicks in.

Photo by David Villarreal Fernandez via Wikimedia Commons

San Antonio residents will enjoy free metered parking downtown with this and other hybrids, while those in Austin can receive a rebate up to $1,500 on the purchase and install of a charging station at their home. But the i-MiEV battery takes nearly 24 hours to charge completely with a 110-volt apparatus, seats fewer people than most other electric hybrids and is not known for its speed. Still, its $22,995 MSRP makes it an attractive option.

Toyota Prius C Models

There are four Prius C models for 2014, with the C One being the least expensive. Prius Cs have more interior space and cargo room than the i-MiEV due primarily to the fold-down rear seats. Though the Toyota website boasts a 53 city mpg, Consumer Reports put the number at 43.

Photo by Mariordo via Wikimedia Commons

The Prius became the first mass produced hybrid in 2000, which means there are plenty of used models out there to help you save even more. Those with less-than-perfect credit, however, should beware of unsavory dealerships trying to take advantage of your situation. DRIVETIME recently pointed out how several Dallas-area dealerships not only force buyers to bring cash payments to them as often as once per week, but are also known to repossess if a payment is 24 hours late.

The $19,080 MSRP for the 2014 Prius C One makes it the least expensive on the market, but higher processes and handling fees in Texas will boost this number a bit.

Nissan Leaf

The Leaf is the best-selling electric hybrid worldwide due to its speed, quiet engine and of course fuel efficiency. Its “Eco” driving mode extends the battery range and mpg. The 2014 model also features a visualization program that assists you when parallel parking or backing into a parking space.

Photo by Tennen-Gas via Wikimedia Commons

The Car Connection gave the 2014 Leaf a 7.6 (out of 10) overall rating, but a perfect 10 for fuel efficiency. The Leaf gets 115 MPGe and comfortably seats five. The 4-door hatchback model starts at $28,980 MSRP.

 

 

Top Electric Vehicle Friendly Cities In The US

American cities are starting to take electric vehicles seriously. Charging stations and infrastructure are popping up all over the place, sometimes in unexpected locales. Chances are you don’t think about the sprawling metropolises of Dallas or Atlanta, or even the country music capital of the world, Nashville, Tenn. Some of the most unexpected cities top the list of EV (electric vehicle)-friendly places to live.

Portland

Photo by Fcb981 via Wikimedia Commons

Offering more than 130 charging stations for its 603,000 residents, Portland tops the list, according to the Christian Science Monitor. Your chances of finding plenty of power in the Portland area are pretty good. According to ClimateCentral.org, Oregon is the most the most friendly state for electric vehicles. This isn’t true of all areas, though; sometimes it’s actually greener to opt for a hybrid, because the coal burning used to produce electricity can produce more carbon than the gasoline itself.

Dallas

Photo by V8roadster via Wikimedia Commons

You might not expect the heart of Texas to be home to one of the most EV-friendly cities in the States. Dallas ranks second on the list because of the number of charging centers. It comes just behind Portland, with about 200 charging stations serving residents in the DFW metro area. You might need them if you live in the DFW metroplex, because morning commutes are notoriously long in this area, depending on where you live and work.

Nashville

Photo by Kaldari via Wikimedia Commons

The capital of country music is also a top-ten capital of EV-friendliness. According to the Department of Energy, driving a car in the Tennessee costs the equivalent of about $1.03 per gallon. Much of this is because of the nearby Nissan factory in Smyrna, where the company produces many of its all-electric Leaf vehicles.

San Francisco Bay Area

Photo by jitze via Flickr

The San Francisco Bay area is another EV-friendly city. In September 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed several laws encouraging the use of electric vehicles. The new laws allow all-electric vehicles to use the faster-moving carpool lanes. They also encourage the development of easily-accessible charging stations and require commercial and residential building standards to include EV charging infrastructure in multifamily and commercial units.

An Up-And-Coming Option: Atlanta

Photo by J. Miers via Wikimedia Commons

Other major cities like Atlanta are taking steps toward becoming more EV-friendly. According to CleanCitiesAtlanta.net, hundreds of electric vehicles have already hit metro streets. The state capitol building added EV charging stations in October 2013.

Lieutenant Governor, Casey Cagle, drives an electric Nissan Leaf, and was present at the dedication ceremony for the charging stations. He hopes to see even more growth in city planning and sustainability in the next few years, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Talk to a reputable car dealer to help you figure out which type of vehicle would be best for the environment and for your family; DriveTime in Atlanta could help you make the most environmentally-friendly choice, as could similar dealers across the States.

Sales of EVs, Hybrids Continue to Climb – Where Do We Stand Now?

U.S. sales of hybrid, electric and “clean” diesel vehicles keep going up. Americans bought more than 57,000 green vehicles in June, notes Auto Blog Green, making the month the highest in sales growth for green cars over the same period in 2012.

For the full year through June, U.S. consumers bought nearly 320,000 electric, hybrid and diesel vehicles. That’s almost a 20 percent gain over 2012’s first six months. Purely electric (or plug-in) car sales alone showed even higher growth numbers, more than 80 percent, over the previous year.

Why the Growth?

Sky-high gas prices are a main driver. With the U.S. national average for a gallon of gas at $4.11 last month, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, filling the family car every week is a big drain on Americans’ budgets. It’s cheaper to charge and maintain an electric car (EV) or hybrid, which if course, is more attractive to consumers. Depending on the current gas prices across the U.S., electric recharging costs can be substantially lower than fuel; charging costs anywhere from a fifth to a tenth of gasoline. And if you’re currently spending $100-$150 a week on gas, those savings can make a big difference.

Charging Stations

Photo by Flickr user quinn.anya

One drawback of EVs is the distance one can travel on a single charge. The new 2013 Nissan Leaf can go about 80 miles on a single charge, depending on driving conditions, weather, traffic and more. And charging these cars at home isn’t yet a two-minute activity: A professional EV charging unit can cost upward of $2,000, but will charge your car quicker than a 200-volt outlet, which takes about 7-8 hours to fully charge the new Nissan Leaf. A regular 100-volt outlet will double that re-charging time.

But a ray of hope exists. EV charging stations are popping up in urban centers across the country. In Phoenix, for instance, charging stations have grown to cover wide parts of the Valley, and EV owners can log onto plugshare.com to find them. Potential electric car buyers can test-drive a hybrid or EV car at the Chevrolet dealer in Phoenix.

Brighter Energy Future

Industry insiders see the rise of electric cars and lesser dependence on foreign oil as a good combination for future growth of the industry. One estimate from the International Energy Agency notes that there could be as many as 20 million electric vehicles on the road in less than a decade. Technology companies, too, see both civic and business opportunities. In June, companies like SAP, Google, GE and other electric and technology firms came together to discuss opportunities at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s Driving Charged and Connected 2013 conference.

But ultimately, it’s up to the United States government to lay down immediate energy policies to oversee this growth. In doing so, it will help bring about a new era of certainty for both electric car makers like Tesla and consumers who would rather re-charge than fill up.

Photo by Flickr user RambergMediaImages

Data Shows Electric Vehicles Could Strain Electricity Grid

Home EV Charging StationReal world data taken from a Texas community shows that the habits of electric vehicle owners could pose a challenge for electricity providers.  The data collected is part of an ongoing study being conducted by Pecan Street, Inc. a research group based in Austin.  Pecan Street is seeking to understand how people will really manage their electric vehicles in the wild and to test the assumptions that have been made about how, when, and how often people will recharge their EV batteries.

To do this the company installed instruments to track the way people use their electricity within a planned community in Austin called Mueller.  The Mueller community makes a perfect test lab to study such things because it is a planned community built around a renewable energy and sustainability ethos.   The community is built from the start to maximize sustainability and incorporate smart grid technology and energy management systems.  Not surprisingly it has one of the highest concentrations of electric vehicle owners in the world.  Specifically, the Chevy Volt seems to be the car of choice in Mueller, with a few Nissan Leafs sprinkled in.

The study shows that, absent any incentive to do otherwise, people will default to the behavior that’s easiest and most convenient for them.  That means when they come home from work in the evenings they plug their cars in so that they will be charged and ready to go for the next morning.  The problem is that everyone, more or less, does this at the same time.  This also happens to correspond to the timeslot that is already a peak electricity usage time of day.  In Texas this is when air conditioners are working hardest.  It’s also when people are turning on televisions, dishwashers, washing machines, etc…

All of this simultaneous demand for electricity taxes the grid’s ability to produce enough power all at once to meet demand.  Not only does this make it more difficult for electric companies to keep up, but it also makes electricity rates go up because providers have to bring more expensive electricity into the mix.

Electricity is at it’s cheapest just a few hours later around midnight but people aren’t waiting until midnight to plug in their cars.   One important thing to note about the Mueller usage data is that there is no time based pricing currently in place.  This means no incentive for consumers to change their behavior.  It’s possible that by pricing their electricity more in line with the actual wholesale price of electricity throughout the day people would shift their car charging to later in the evening when electricity rates might fall substantially.

The sample size for the study is quite small but so far the result have be in line with expectation about when people will charge their electric vehicles.  If electric vehicle usage continues to expand, it could case more growing pains for the Texas electricity grid that is already expected struggle with meeting peak demand for power over the next few years. 

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Denton, Texas Will Be Adding 14 New Charging Stations For Electric Vehicles

EV charging Over the next two months, Denton will be installing 14 new electric vehicle charging stations, six of which will be located on the University of North Texas campus.

The six UNT stations will be located at the Murchison, Wooten, and the RTVF Buildings.  Each location will have two charging stations. 

The off-campus locations include Denton Square, Denton Public Library, and Cupboard National Foods.

These 14 locations will bring the total number of EV charging stations in the D/FW area to over 250, making the Metroplex one of the most EV-friendly areas in the nation.