$50M contest sparks buzz over electric vehicles

Image: Electric charging station
A plug-in hybrid vehicle gets an electric boost from a charging station in Portland, Ore. (Credit: PGE)

The winner of the $50 million Smart City Challenge won’t be announced until next month, but the organizers have already picked at least one winning technology for transforming transportation and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions: electric vehicles.

Switching over to electric vehicles will be a “central pillar” for urban transportation strategies, said Spencer Reeder, senior program officer for climate and energy at Seattle billionaire Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc. Vulcan is contributing $10 million to support the challenge, while the U.S. Department of Transportation has pledged up to $40 million.

The challenge started last December, with the aim of encouraging mid-sized cities to develop safer, more efficient and more environmentally sound transportation systems. Seventy-eight cities submitted proposals, and in March, the field was trimmed down to seven finalists: Austin, in Texas, Columbus in Ohio, Denver, Kansas City in Missouri, Pittsburgh, Portland in Oregon and San Francisco.

The final submissions are due on May 24, and the winning city will receive the lion’s share of the prize money to help turn its plan into a demonstration project.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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