• Simon

Bayou Electric Vehicles: Plugging Louisiana In

Back in spring 2017, a group of folks got together in Lafayette, Louisiana, to find good ideas worth spreading in the community.  That's where the idea of Bayou Electric Vehicles first got stated. 

What would you do with $5,000? 

Every year, Lafayette's citizen-fueled nonprofit, civicside, hosts a pitch-style competition where ideas would be tossed out into the community with the hopes of receiving some seed funding. The 24 Hour Citizen Project drew all sorts of great ideas for Acadiana. But, with the possibility of winning just $5,000 for an individual project...what could be done? What should be done? 

After a bit of research, we found that there's a gaping hole in Louisiana: Lafayette had no public electric vehicle (EV) charge stations. Meanwhile, much smaller communities than Lafayette had loads of charge stations. At the beginning of 2017, only a handful of EV models could travel at least 200 miles without charging. Lafayette is a reasonable half-way destination between Houston and New Orleans on the I-10 corridor. To really connect the major metro areas, Lafayette needs to up its EV game. 

Lafayette's a bit unique. We have our own electric company - Lafayette Utilities System. That means our mayor and city/parish governments can make really big changes, quickly, without a lot of delays or handwringing. Lafayette was a pioneer when it came to installing residential fiber internet. And just a few years ago, the city invested in some compressed natural gas buses and filling stations. We've done big, difficult and expensive - but the EV revolution has come much more quickly than anyone here could have anticipated. 

So, for the 24 Hour Citizen Project, we developed a team: Team AC/DC, and began doing the research necessary to pitch Lafayette's first public EV charge station. 

Strategic Losing 

To help with the pitch preparation, I looked for EV owners in the area via the web portal, and found a critical mass of EV owners. We figured it'd cost about $1,000 for the electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE's the technical terminology), and electricity costs would probably top out at about $2 per day (for a heavily used charge station). Tesla even has a destination charger program where they'll provide EVSE - for free (even J1772 Clipper Creek units). Turns out, you can do a lot with $5,000. Maybe buy a couple Level 2 charge stations, and then help the city defray any installation costs and the cost of electricity. 

We made an impassioned pitch (you can watch it here), but ended up losing to some other phenomenal pitch teams. Even after we lost, so very many supporters came around and said, "Well, it'll probably get done anyway." 

The pitch event was about more than just the money. It was about energizing a community, and meeting the right people. After the pitch event in summer 2017, we had probably reached several thousand people via social media and in-person meetings. A single charge station wasn't ever going to change the world - but it would act as a conversation starter, and a public statement, that Lafayette will not be left behind. 

Accelerating Change

Come to find out, EV enthusiasts are very...enthused. Even after the pitch event, folks still wanted to get together and talk about the latest and greatest news in the EV world. So we figured we needed a name, some sort of plan, and maybe a logo. Voila: Bayou Electric Vehicles was born. The acronym is pretty slick too (BEV is also common industry parlance for "Battery Electric Vehicles"). 

The plan is fairly simple: act as a resource to existing and future EV owners, and measure our successes in miles driven on kilowatt hours. We're open to anyone interested in EV's. And we're keen to meet with folks that may want to host EVSE, or buy EV's; including electric companies, businesses and elected leaders. 

Electric vehicle charge stations are going to become the next Wi-Fi. Ten years ago, Wi-Fi was a bit of a luxury at a few specialty stores...but now, everyone just expects to be able to jump online, for free, at Target. EV's are next. They're coming. And we're here to help. 

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