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Group promotes electric car in R.I.

Project Get Ready, a national nonprofit initiative to promote the usage of plug-in electric vehicles, announced on Jan. 21 that it would add Rhode Island to its list of pilot sites. Rhode Island, the first entire state to become a pilot site, joins Houston, Indianapolis, Denver and Toronto.

The project aims to convert 2 percent of each pilot site's registered vehicles to plug-in electric vehicles within five years. For Rhode Island, this would mean registering about 10,000 of the cars by 2015, said Al Dahlberg, the project's Rhode Island coordinator and director of state and community relations at Brown.

"We are starting to get charge spots built at institutions and companies around the state," he said. "We have also been working with municipalities on expedited permitting and educating inspectors about charge spot locations."

Brown has already developed a close relationship with the project, Dahlberg said.
"Several students have been involved, and we hope to see more student interest the more this initiative is publicized," he said, adding that several professors have attended meetings as well.

Among the students who have gotten involved with the project is Yonatan Dolgin '10, who serves as the co-chair of the organization's team tasked with promoting the plug-in cars to individuals.

"There are great educational opportunities. There's lots of research to be done," Dolgin said. "This can range from finding out what is the best way to reach consumers in Rhode Island to looking at the sociological and psychological impacts of driving electric vehicles to understanding the distance you need between driving and public charging stations."

Brown already has a small fleet of electric vehicles that are used for Facilities Management, and both Dolgin and Dahlberg noted the possibility of installing charging stations on campus.

Project Get Ready was developed as an initiative of the Rocky Mountain Institute in October 2008, Dahlberg said.

In order to get Rhode Island approved as a pilot site, Dahlberg and other community stakeholders gained the political approval of Mayor David Cicilline '83 and House Majority Leader Gordon Fox, D-Dist. 4.

Following approval, organizers underwent a strategic planning process to develop a plan to meet the Rocky Mountain Institute's goals, Dahlberg said. Now the project must implement the plan, he added.

"Within 18 to 24 months, almost every major automaker is rolling out a plug-in electric vehicle and we have to make sure that we do all the background work necessary to make sure these vehicles are welcomed," Dahlberg said.

"This involves several tactics," he said. "These can be broken down into consumer awareness initiatives, working with fleet managers and informing them about these vehicles and their financial and environmental benefits and working to build the necessary infrastructure."

Dahlberg said he has a positive outlook for Project Get Ready and the future of Rhode Island's plug-in electric vehicles, especially given some of Rhode Island's "unique" qualities. Rhode Islanders drive short distances and tend to stay in the state, he said, reducing concerns about the prevalence of charging stations and long-term personal investment.

"This isn't like North Dakota," he noted. "People generally don't drive long distances in Rhode Island."



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