California’s Sacramento Municipal Utility District is spearheading a regional effort to develop an innovation hub for developing clean transportation technologies.
SMUD is funding two feasibility studies for the planned Mobility Center, which aims to combine an electric vehicle prototyping hub and an existing Autonomous Transportation Open Standards, or ATOS, initiative.
ATOS, formed two years ago in Sacramento, is a public-private consortium that aims to develop interoperable protocols and standards for autonomous vehicles.
The planned Mobility Center would fund and help commercialize new technologies including electric vehicles, autonomous transportation, charging stations, shared mobility solutions, public transit and new business and policy models, according to SMUD.
SMUD expects the Mobility Center would be a public-private partnership that includes governmental entities, universities, electric utilities, technology and automotive companies and venture capitalists.
The center is being modeled on a testing and prototyping facility in Germany run by PEM Aachen GmbH, according to Lindsay VanLaningham, a SMUD spokeswoman.
PEM will conduct one of the SMUD-supported studies to explore setting up the Mobility Center.
For the other study, SMUD hired EnerTech Capital, a venture capital firm, to develop a plan to attract global investors to the Mobility Center.
After the feasibility studies are completed in late March, project supporters will begin the process of securing partners and investors in the new Mobility Center.
Officials from SMUD and its partners will travel in April to China to try to land funding for the Mobility Center, VanLaningham said.
The concept of a Mobility Center is supported by the Greater Sacramento Economic Council, the city of Sacramento, Sacramento County, University of California, Davis, Sacramento State as well as by policy makers and venture capitalists, according to SMUD.
Sacramento was awarded about $44 million for electric vehicles and charging stations as part of Volkswagen’s settlement over the German automaker’s efforts to evade emissions limits for its diesel vehicles.
Sacramento has a goal of having 75,000 zero-emission vehicles in the city by 2025, plus 3,800 public or workplace chargers. There are more than 10,000 electric vehicles in SMUD’s service territory and they rank 5th in the nation on public charging overall and 3rd in the nation for public DCFC per capita according to the municipal utility.
SMUD offers its residential customers $599 or a 240 Volt high-powered electric vehicle charger when they buy an electric vehicle. The municipal utility also offers $3,500 towards the purchase of a Nissan Leaf. SMUD also gives electric vehicle owners a 1.5 cent per kilowatt-hour credit for charging between midnight and 6 a.m.