Electric Road Trip

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Electric Rex: This reptile wants to make gasoline extinct

AUSTIN, Texas — It's not every day you get to meet a gender-neutral dinosaur who's into electric vehicles. But there we were, shortly after arriving in this capital city yesterday, face to jaw with StEVie, the EV-loving Tyrannosaurus rex. "StEVie is passionate about you saying goodbye to gas forever," said Austin Energy's Bobby Godsey. StEVie, he said, "is focused on spreading the word in the community."

We met StEVie on Electric Drive, a showcase street for new and emerging technology. It's a place where Austin Energy, the city's municipal electric utility, can discuss its vision of an electric future.

There are EV charging stations and an area powered by solar and storage that has free plugs to help people charge laptops, phones and electric bikes. People zip along a wide sidewalk on electric bikes and scooters.

Austin Energy said the fast charger on Electric Drive is one of the most used in the state. But it wasn't working when we tried it Monday. That meant we didn't get to charge on the street because a slower charger wasn't available to us during much of our visit. There's hope of adding more charging stations in the future as the street continues to evolve.

Education and outreach are priorities for Austin Energy. It has seen people become confused by technical language about EVs, and it wants to help simplify things. Adding more electricity demand is good for this utility, whose trajectory is shaped by priorities among city leaders.

StEVie remains an eye-catching way to tie fossil fuels for cars to a move toward electricity, which can be powered by wind and solar generation (and some fossil fuels).

The mascot is popular at events and in crowds. And StEVie is featured in a series of online videos showing the dinosaur in various roles, including playing drums in a band. StEVie was sporting a shirt Monday that declared "ELECTRIC > GAS." It's a message the utility uses in part to start a conversation about power, gasoline and energy options.

The dinosaur doesn't speak, or even roar. But StEVie held a sign during our meeting that declared, "Goodbye ForEVer, Gas."

At a meeting with EV enthusiasts Monday night, we heard positive words about StEVie and efforts in this city to reach people with information, especially since EVs and charging remain a mystery to many.

"I think Austin Energy really is trying to integrate it into the messaging of the community," said Robert Borowski, sustainability officer at the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Others at our meeting last night noted how Austin Energy might incorporate educational content into a new headquarters building that's in the works. That idea was discussed in a piece this year on a website about Austin's Mueller neighborhood, which is known for efforts around sustainability.

In the meantime, StEVie remains a popular attraction.

"StEVie's Outlook calendar is full," Godsey said. "Everybody loves StEVie, from the kids to the executives of the Fortune 500 corporations in town."

Electric Road Trip

E&E News reporters take a 6,000-mile road trip in an electric vehicle to explore how the switch from gas to electric transportation will change the economy, environment and daily life of America.
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