WASHINGTON—Jack Hidary certainly isn't short on moxie.
Instead of waiting for a congressional committee to advance electric vehicle legislation, the New York entrepreneur stood in room 366 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building where those discussions usually unfold and announced his bold initiative designed to prod motorists from the pump to the plug.
And, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the always-gracious New Mexico Democrat who lords over those hearings as chairman of the , welcomed Hidary with kind words and encouragement.
Hidary and dozens of other electric vehicle disciples gathered Wednesday to launch Hertz's green car-sharing program in the nation's capital. The blueprint, introduced last December in New York City, gives drivers access to an array of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Hertz has mapped out a plan to replicate the service in urban centers nationwide and overseas.
"This is not a dog and pony show," Hidary told SolveClimate News in an interview before kicking off a brief program that included remarks from industry representatives as well as alternative energy aficionados Bingaman, Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), who drives a Tesla, and Jim Woolsey, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency.
"What we're saying is let's make electric vehicles a reality and accessible to the people. This makes it real."
Legislation to promote electric vehicles would be helpful, the 42-year-old catalyst explained, but the marketplace can't wait around for Congress. Envelope-pushers, he added, have to lead by designing new business models that emphasize mobility, job creation, energy storage and plug-ins' evolving relationship with the emerging smart grid.
"The way I see it, 2011 is the year of the electric car," said Hidary, a finance and technology guru now focused on clean energy. "This is a new world we're about to enter into."
Congress Creeping Forward
Bingaman is trying to do his part to encourage solidarity and shepherd the Senate toward that novel universe. President Obama's goal of becoming the first country to put a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 resonates with him.
"Electrification of the transportation sector is one of the great hopes we have for this country," Bingaman said Wednesday, pointing to Hertz as a "good example of that happening."
Just a week ago, his energy committee had a hearing to discuss the "" (S. 948). The bipartisan bill dangles hundreds of millions of dollars as bait in infrastructure-switching incentives via the Department of Energy.
Even as Congress seems locked in a state of pre-presidential election paralysis, insiders say that a bill boosting electric vehicle deployment has a chance of galvanizing legislators who otherwise seem allergic to the idea of crafting logical energy and environment measures.
What’s in the Bill
Sens. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, and Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican — both members of the — are the authors of the bill Bingaman's committee is discussing.
A similar bill they co-authored last year with North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan, a Democrat who is now retired, received the thumbs-up from the energy committee before sputtering out in the Senate.
One highlight of this year's 87-page version is DOE grants of as much as $250 million for communities across the country that can show they are savvy enough with local policy and private sector involvement to create a charging infrastructure that supports at least 400,000 electric vehicles.
It also designates $235 million through — DOE's version of a similar type of program in the Department of Defense — for research and development to fine-tune drive components, increase the durability and energy storage capacity of batteries and improve the efficiency of charging stations.