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Norwich University students explore all-electric car share for The Valley

Norwich University architecture students will be presenting their design ideas for an exploration of an all-electric car share for the Mad River Valley as part of the Mad River Valley Planning District meeting on April 18 at the East Warren Schoolhouse.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. with the presentation by the students at approximately 8 p.m. The public is welcome to hear the students' presentation and view their drawings and models.

A quote from the students' presentation begins: "In the age of information, technology has inspired and changed the way our society lives and functions. It has evolved the way we work, play, interact and educate. While urban areas tend to prosper from the benefits of technology, the rural areas in terms of transportation systems often struggle to gain this prosperity....We imagine a system that reduces the number of automobiles being used, resulting in less carbon emissions, which in turn reduces humanity's impact on Earth's nature systems. We want to create a society that enables a single automobile to serve many people, instead of one sole owner. Our second goal is to create this system using only vehicles powered in a manner which decreases carbon emissions and thus less greenhouse gases." Their designs are also inspired by the ideas of Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart.

The all-electric car share, powered by locally and sustainably produced energy, will serve all of The Valley residents, businesses and tourist destinations. The exploration of such a system was initiated at a Valley Futures Meeting in December 2011 and has evolved into a group called the MRV EV: Charging the Valley's Future, beginning in early 2012.

The group has met informally several times during the spring of 2012, had a table at the Waitsfield Farmers' Market during the summer to introduce the idea to the community and obtain feedback, provided an electrical vehicle demonstration and shuttle as part of the Vermont Strong: Celebrate Resilience Bridge Street Party in Waitsfield in late summer and was selected as one of the four projects accepted to be studied by students for the Local Community Initiatives course at the University of Vermont, organized in part by Joshua Schwartz, director of the Mad River Valley Planning District, in the fall.

University of Vermont students looked into the operation and infrastructure for existing all electric car shares in the U.S. and Europe and economic viability. Since January, Norwich University Architecture students have taken the project to the next level through developing several potential master plans for such a system in The Valley and creating several alternative car hub designs including how this could then spur additional economic opportunities for The Valley.

Since the investigation has begun back in 2011, several important aspects have made what might seem visionary increasingly realistic. The state of Vermont is moving towards changing over to electric vehicles for their car fleet, which demands an increased priority and planning for electric vehicle charging stations throughout Vermont. In addition, the idea of "sharing" a car rather than each person having to own one or multiple cars themselves is increasingly being accepted by the population, especially the younger generations.

Even though such systems are mainly in urban areas and presents a more challenging situation within a rural environment, the organization of The Valley along the spine of a major road, Route 100, makes a uniquely positive opportunity for such a system to work in the Mad River Valley.

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