Food and technology are often considered antithetical. Whether you’re scarfing down a locally grown arugula salad or a big beefy burger, you’re probably more likely to think of the bucolic scene from which it came than the technological advances that brought it to your plate. When food and technology are brought together in the same thought, phrases like techno-food get used pejoratively to signify all of the modern food advances filling our plates with slightly more nutritious junkfood. However, simultaneously and much more quietly, a modern tech movement has arisen that is building a network to make good food more affordable and accessible from the individual to the national scale.
A ChargePoint(R) EV charging station in Oregon (Image Credit: WikiMedia Commons User M.O. Stevens)
On Wednesday, the first quick-charging station for electric vehicles Latin America opened in Santiago, Chile, the Wall Street Journalreported. The station, which can charge electric cars to 80% capacity in 30 minutes, is housed in one of Brazilian state-run Petroleo Brasileiro SA’s gas stations. At the opening ceremony, President Sebastián Piñera proclaimed, “The day we can use this technology in massive quantities, we’re going to leap forward in protecting the environment, reducing pollution in our cities and improving people’s quality of life.”
While Japan dominates the market with 600 charging stations – there are just over 40 stations combined in all other countries – electric car infrastructure is developing across the Americas. Hawai’i has implemented ten charging stations on Oahu through a collaboration among Better Place, resort hotel chains, the Hawaiian Electric Company, and the Hawai’i Renewable Development Venture. Ten charge stations were launched this week, and the project also includes seven electric cars that will be used primarily as fleet vehicles for Hawaiian Electric and hotel guest shuttles. The Hawai’i Natural Energy Institute at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa will monitor usage and performance of this pilot initiative. Business Week reported that Better Place plans to open 130 additional stations by early 2012 – an initiative welcomed by political leaders in Hawai’i, where the price of a gallon of regular unleaded gas reached $4.49 on Tuesday, the highest in the nation.
In New York City, Icon Parking Systems – which operates over 200 facilities in Manhattan – announced charging stations are now availableat another parking garage as part of an ongoing partnership with Car Charging Group. The new charging unit, part of the ChargePoint® Network, is open to EVs from all manufacturers and features conveniences such as variable fees for usage, access without subscriptions, 24/7 driver support, and smartphone applications that allow users to find unoccupied stations.
This week’s developments are promising signs of the potential for EVs in the Americas. The “Electric Vehicle Study” by Zypryme Research reported that 2011 will be a “breakthrough year for the Smart Grid…[and] a history maker for the electric vehicle (EV) industry” as numerous automobile manufacturers will be launching EVs into the mainstream market. Almost 40% of respondents to the Zypryme survey stated they are “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to purchase an EV in the next two years, with one-third of all respondents indicating they will pay a premium for an electric vehicle.
Featured Image, front page: Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) diagram (Image Credit: WikiMedia Commons user Matt Howard)