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Latest Department of Energy taxpayer cash dump: ‘Volt-ville’

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By Doug Powers  •  August 1, 2012 04:41 PM

**Written by Doug Powers

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My first of many questions is how did this end up in Texas and not California?

Maybe it should be renamed “Chevrolet Volt-ville.” The largest concentration of Chevrolet Volts in the country will play a key role in helping Texas residents in a 700-acre planned community as they test the impact of “smart homes” and other green technology, like electronic vehicles.

GM calls it the greatest concentration of Chevrolet Volts in the world.

“This partnership provides us with a unique opportunity to observe charging details with many real customers in a concentrated setting,” said Nick Pudar, an OnStar vice president, in a statement.

OnStar and General Motors have become official partners of Pecan Street Inc., the country’s first nonprofit research and development consortia, where residents agreed to be part of a clean-energy smart grid test for sustainable living. The Mueller community, 3 miles outside Austin, provides a real-life lab for the automaker to observe charging patterns and how consumers and clean-energy technologies interact and support electric-vehicle charging. The project runs for five years.

While Chevrolet made 100 Volts available, only 55 of the community residents took advantage of the various tax credits, including a $7,500 federal tax credit and a $7,500 rebate from Pecan Street on their Volt purchases. Those leasing a Volt for three or more years received a $3,000 rebate.

“We’re gathering information from families’ vehicles throughout this community to find out the direct impact the Volt has on the grid and how to get drivers the lowest possible charging rates,” said Pudar. “This project will also help us develop future capabilities of the Volt and other plug-in electric vehicles.”

Why taxpayers are on the hook to help General Motors do product research is… not very surprising at all. But it should trouble GM, not to mention those who subsidize Volts, that they can’t move almost half of their stock in an eco community.

So, how much is this costing taxpayers — on top of the original Volt subsidies that is?

Pecan Street is funded by a $10.4 million grant from the Energy Department and more than $14 million in matching funds from project partners. Although Pecan Street oversees the consortia, it also includes researchers from the University of Texas, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Environmental Defense Fund. It’s housed in the University of Texas at Austin.

For now it’s been dubbed “Volt-ville,” but other names under consideration are “Begley-land” and “Gore-opolis.” By the time it’s all over, “Another Defunct Federally-Backed Money Incinerator” will probably best apply:

**Written by Doug Powers

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