San Francisco, San Jose and Palo Alto, California were all too happy to endorse Better Place's electric vehicle infrastructure two years ago, but now the powers that be have invested some cash to get this show on the road. The Bay Area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission has dropped $6.9 million to purchase and build 61 electric taxis and four robotic battery swap stations to put freshly juiced cells in place -- just like Better Place has been doing with Tokyo taxis since April 26th. Yellow Cab Cooperative and Yellow Checker Cab will operate the zero-emission vehicles, though CNET reports that they've yet to choose a particular type -- perhaps we'll finally see Mitsubishi's i MiEV with a steering wheel on the left-hand side? PR after the break.
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MTC Awards $33 Million in New Grants to Spur Innovations in Emissions Reduction

17 Bay Area Projects Selected


OAKLAND, Calif., Oct. 27, 2010 - The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) today approved 17 grants totaling $33 million through its Climate Initiatives Program to promote breakthrough techniques for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle-miles traveled around the Bay Area. The commitments include 13 Innovative Grants totaling $31 million to support electric-vehicle fleets, encourage alternatives to solo driving, institute dynamic pricing for parking, promote bicycle sharing, allow ocean-going ships to turn off their diesel engines while loading or unloading cargo, eliminate the need to transport hot asphalt for pavement rehabilitation projects, and upgrade signalized intersections to detect and count bicycles. The Commission also approved four Safe Routes to Schools grants totaling $2 million for programs designed to encourage walking or bicycling to school. These grants will supplement $15 million already distributed to the nine Bay Area counties for local Safe Routes to Schools programs.

"The stiff competition for these grants shows the spirit of innovation is alive and well in the Bay Area," said MTC Chair and Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, noting the Commission received 75 initial project requests totaling $250 million at the start of the two-step evaluation process. "But the spirit of partnership and collaboration among the applicants is equally strong. We ultimately selected the projects that have the biggest potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and that can be replicated regionwide. And because many of the original project sponsors ended up joining forces with other applicants, good proposals got even better."

The biggest of the 13 Innovative Grants is a nearly $7 million award to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the city of San Jose and Palo Alto-based Better Place to demonstrate electric taxis in San Jose and San Francisco. Other grants for electric vehicle programs included $2.8 million for a national demonstration project led by Alameda County which includes the purchase of 90 electric vehicles and accompanying Level 2 chargers for use by public agencies in Alameda, Marin, Santa Clara and Sonoma counties; and $1.7 million for a team led by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority to deploy 19 electric vehicles in the City CarShare fleet in San Francisco and the East Bay.

A partnership involving the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, SamTrans, the San Francisco MTA and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District received almost $4.3 million for a pilot bike-sharing program through which 1,000 bikes will be available for use at 100 kiosks in San Francisco, San Jose, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Redwood City and other cities along the Caltrain corridor.

The Port of Oakland won a $3 million grant to install the infrastructure needed to allow ships at one of its 18 international berths to turn off their auxiliary diesel engines and plug into the electrical grid while loading or unloading cargo. This Shore Power initiative is planned as the first step in the eventual transformation of all the port's international berths and its eight marine terminals.

The city of Napa teamed with Sonoma County to win a $2 million grant to demonstrate cold-in-place asphalt recycling, which eliminates the need to produce new paving material or transport it to the worksite. The demonstration will include roadway rehab projects in both Napa and Sonoma counties.

The city of San Jose received $1.5 million to test eight different bicycle detection and count systems at signalized intersections around the city. Each test will last at least three months. The city will conduct outreach to bicyclists to identify the best technology, and then implement the system on two major travel corridors with existing bike lanes.

The city of Berkeley received a $2 million grant to implement a pilot program for dynamic pricing of parking spaces in the Southside and Elmwood districts, to enhance parking enforcement to manage spillover into adjacent residential neighborhoods, and to implement various transportation demand-management (TDM) strategies to help reduce the number of auto trips in the city.

SamTrans got nearly $1.5 million to implement car-sharing, short-distance vanpools and other TDMs in and around downtown Redwood City. The San Francisco County Transportation Authority received $750,000 to establish a forum for implementing TDM tools such as parking cashout programs and a Muni Partners shuttle. A partnership between the Sonoma County Transportation Authority and the city of Santa Rosa got $600,000 to restructure Santa Rosa's Guaranteed Ride Home program, its commute pass and youth pass programs and other TDM strategies. Another partnership led by the Sonoma County Transportation Authority received a $1.5 million grant to demonstrate dynamic ridesharing technology in Sonoma, Marin and Contra Costa counties.

The four Safe Routes to Schools grants approved by MTC included $867,000 to a partnership spearheaded by the Alameda County Waste Management Authority for a climate change curriculum and competition in schools in Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Sonoma counties; $500,000 to a team led by the Alameda County Transportation Commission for a mobile truck that workers will use to promote walking and biking, and to provide bicycle repairs and bike repair and bike safety lessons; $383,000 for a group led by the Transportation Authority of Marin that will use social media to promote "Green Ways to School;" and $250,000 for the Solano Transportation Authority to develop geographic information systems (GIS)-based route-to-school maps with safety coded routes.

MTC is the transportation planning, coordinating and financing agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. A complete list of projects approved for funding through the Climate Initiatives Program grants can be viewed here (PDF).

Better Place to Bring Electric Taxi Program to the San Francisco Bay Area

October 27, 2010


Palo Alto, Calif. – (October 27, 2010) – Better Place, with support from the U.S. Department of Transportation via the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, today announced a commitment to bring a switchable battery, electric taxi program to the Bay Area in partnership with the cities of San Francisco and San Jose to further cement the region's position as the "EV Capital of the U.S."

Taxis are a high-mileage, high-visibility segment that can serve as the on-ramp for technology transfer to the mass-market. Over the next three years, the program will deploy and operate four battery switch stations in the San Francisco to San Jose corridor that supports a fleet of zero-emission, switchable taxis. This fleet will offer many thousands of Bay Area residents and visitors their first EV experience. The program also has the potential to help California and the Bay Area meet their aggressive energy and climate policy goals when scaled to the entire region.

Electric taxis are the gateway to clean cities. While gas-powered taxis are fewer in number than personal cars, these high-mileage vehicles are disproportionally responsible for harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) and other tailpipe emissions, so electrification of this fleet is essential to making a real impact on air quality and oil consumption. Since taxis drive nearly continuously, they require instant charge of their battery to maintain quality of service and continue serving the public. Given the taxi business, waiting three to four hours for standard charge is not an option. Battery switch is the only option that allows the driver to recharge in less time than it takes to refuel, the means of range extension for today's gas-powered taxis.

Better Place has been successfully operating an EV taxi program in Tokyo, supported by the Japanese government. The pilot project began on April 26, in cooperation with Nihon Kotsu Co., Tokyo's largest taxi operator, and focuses on the feasibility of an automated battery switch process as means for taxis to have instant, zero-emission, range extension. In the first 90 days of the trial, the EV taxis drove over 25,000 miles using battery switch as the primary means of "instant charge" or range extension.

"Today marks a significant milestone in our march towards accelerating the mass adoption of electric cars in the Bay Area. This program will enable us to reach a broad audience and demonstrate a solution that offers drivers a more convenient option than today's gasoline cars," said Jason Wolf, VP of North America for Better Place. "The battery switch model is gaining momentum globally. Our Tokyo EV taxi program has proven to be an example to major metropolitan areas around the world, and we are pleased that the MTC recognized this and the Bay Area is taking a leadership position in the U.S."

This program will be developed in partnership with key regional stakeholders and organizations that are working together to build Bay Area EV leadership, including:

• Taxi operators and car sharing programs: Yellow Cab Cooperative, Yellow Checker Cab Inc.; • Regional and state agencies: Bay Area Air Quality Management District • Consumer and EV organizations: Plug-in America, AAA Northern California; • Leading regional business/community organizations: Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Bay Area Council, Bay Area Climate Collaborative, Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network, and others; • San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

"In November 2008, I was joined by Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and Better Place in calling for making the San Francisco Bay Area the EV Capital of America," said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. "This partnership with Better Place to build the first electric taxi program with switchable battery EVs in the U.S. helps make this a reality."

Better Place remains on-track in developing and deploying countrywide networks of charging and battery-switching infrastructure in its first two markets, Israel and Denmark, for commercial launch in late 2011. Better Place will begin its initial network deployment in Canberra, Australia in late 2011 as part of a nationwide infrastructure roll out.