To pump, or not to pump: When it comes to powering our mobility, what choices do we have?

American’s face thousands of choices everyday—ranging from decisions as simple as what to drink if you’re thirsty, to complex and life-changing decisions like “should I move to Europe.”

In spite of the myriad of ways we can chose to get around—cars, planes, or buses—when traveling long distances, American’s unfortunately have little choice to how their mobility is powered.

According to David Sandalow, assistant secretary for policy and international affairs for the U.S. Department of Energy, using oil to fuel our transportation system has become all too natural to the U.S. population. And, it’s time for a change.

“We are all so used to gas. Our parents and grandparents fueled their cars the same way we do today,” said Sandalow during his keynote address at the World EV Cities and Ecosystems Conference, co-hosted by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and the UC Davis Plug-In Hybrid & EV Research Center. “Why is it that when we need to get somewhere around this planet, oil is our only option?”

The U.S. currently carries an oil import bill of $1 billion a day, and consumers have little choice to use an alternative fuel when gas prices go sky high.

Several programs recently proposed by the Obama Administration aim to reduce oil consumption by supporting the development and deployment of EV infrastructure across the U.S.

The proposed National Community Deployment Challenge for example would allocate $1 billion for 10-15 communities to develop an alternative vehicle program. The Administration also proposed to increase the Advanced Vehicle Tax Credit from the current amount of $7,500 to $10,000, and convert this to a point-of-sale rebate.

There’s just one catch: These all require congressional approval. Although the benefits of electrified transportation—like economic development, job creation, cleaner air and improved human health—are real and benefit Republicans and Democrats alike, today’s gridlock has shown it is not easy to get congress to agree on much of anything.

Fortunately, there are major urban areas throughout the world (including the U.S), supported by non-profits, automakers, and citizens that aren’t waiting for national mandates or incentives to give their citizens more transportation options.


With a population of 780,559 and a goal to put 10,000 EVs on the road by 2015, the City of Amsterdam has launched a subsidy scheme to support companies intending to use electric cars, taxis and trucks as a key means of transportation around the city. With this, the municipality hopes to become a green transportation hub. So far, so good. The results of a 2009 subsidy scheme led to more than 200 electric vehicles purchased. Currently, the City has a reserve of €8.6 million until the end of 2015.

“Citizens are taking our goal to get 10,000 EVs on the road very seriously because they care about reducing their carbon footprint. They care about switching from oil to electricity, and they care how that electricity is produced.” said Maarten Linnekamp, project manager at management consulting in Amsterdam. “While we, like many other cities throughout the world have to be very conscious about debt, we have started by providing consumers with incentives—both financial relief, free parking, and readily available charging.”

By 2013, there will be approximately 1,000 public charging points on the streets of Amsterdam. Information on their location and availability is accessible in real-time via an open API, making Amsterdam the first city in the world to provide such information in this manner.


In Barcelona, city transport is mostly public. But, the city is also pursuing electric mobility solutions as a way to reduce CO2 emissions and noise, reduce oil dependency and improve efficiency, and to provide opportunities for entrepreneurial, technical and economic development.

Today the city has more than 240 charging stations. This public network of recharging points is creating new business opportunities for innovators to implement new technologies.

“Through our implementation efforts, we’ve learned that the deployment of EV infrastructure is necessary, but not sufficient conditions to reach our city goals,” said Ramon Pruneda, strategic sectors project manager with Barcelona City Council. “We also need to build a market. This requires communication and collaboration with the auto industry and the private sector.”

Barcelona has also established LIVE (Logistics for the Implementation of the Electric Vehicle) as an open public-private platform to provide information regarding electric mobility in the city limits, and provide information for the general public.

Amsterdam and Barcelona are two of many cities represented in LA, and detailed in the new EV City Casebook—released today by The Electric Vehicle Insight Exchange (EVX), a global partnership between RMI’s Project Get Ready, The Clean Energy Ministerial Electric Vehicle Initiative, The International Energy Agency, Task 18 of IEA’s Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Implementing Agreement, and the University of California, Davis Plug-in Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center, and available for download on What transportation options do you have in your city? Do you feel you have access to the information you need to choose wisely?