Cross-state test drive features overnight recharge in solar-powered town
General Motors marked the Florida debut of the Bolt EV with a road trip from Miami to Southwest Florida on Friday, July 21st. Named 2017 North American Car of the Year, the Bolt EV boasts a 238-mile range on a single battery charge. The cross-state drive provided an opportunity to show off the Bolt’s expanded range, and Babcock Ranch proved to be the ideal place for an overnight pit stop. Charging stations for EVs have been a central part of infrastructure since plans for the solar-powered town were unveiled more than a decade ago.
“At the time, a lot of people thought widespread use of EVs was something way, way off in the future,” said Syd Kitson, Chairman and CEO of Kitson & Partners and the visionary behind Babcock Ranch. “Chevy has long been a leader in developing and improving EV technologies, and with introduction of an affordable long-range EV the future is now upon us.”
In fact, all home garages at Babcock are already pre-wired to support EV charging outlets. And while the first residents won’t be moving into the brand new town until later this year, the initial downtown district of Founder’s Square opened last March and is already equipped with free EV charging stations.
After plugging in their Bolts Friday, the GM guests began the second part of their adventure with a briefing of the sustainability elements of the innovative community and the comprehensive plans for alternative transportation at Babcock Ranch. An afternoon tour included a trip to the Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center, the 75MW FPL facility that powers Babcock Ranch.
“I think it is a great way to demonstrate how the environmental benefits of using EVs are multiplied ten-fold as we expand our production of clean, renewable energy,” Kitson said. “Their zero-emission cars, plugged in at Babcock Ranch, were storing up energy from a zero-emission source that would power them all of the way back home.”
The GM visitors marked another significant “first” for Babcock Ranch. An offer from a builder to host the group in their four furnished models made them the very first to spend a night and “test drive” the active, environmentally-focused lifestyle envisioned by the town-makers.
“Our homebuyers have been drawn to the sustainability, natural spaces, activities and overall sense of community that Babcock Ranch has gone above and beyond in creating,” said Wes Thompson, Director of Development. “Babcock Ranch has that old Florida feel together with the conveniences of today’s new technology. It is truly a place where you can preserve the past and sustain the future. We are excited to open our homes and have our guests experience first-hand everything that Babcock Ranch has to offer.”
After settling in to the model homes, guests were encouraged to spend time hiking or biking trails, paddling the freshwater lakes or check out a fishing pole to cast a line from the boardwalk. Late afternoon provided a sample of the public events that are making Founder’s Square a regional hub for community life. ‘Chevy Night’ – featuring live music and display of classic Chevy’s – brought area car buffs out to help welcome the new, environmentally-friendly member of the GM family.
With half of its 18,000-acre footprint set aside as green space and more than 50 miles of trails for residents to explore, Babcock Ranch will eventually be home to 50,000 residents. Key environmental features include restoration of historic wetlands, a comprehensive surface water management system that slows the flow and improves the quality of storm water before it travels on toward the Caloosahatchee River, native landscaping requirements and 100% use of reclaimed water for irrigation.
In addition to infrastructure to promote use of electric cars like the Bolt, autonomous electric shuttle vehicles running regular routes are expected to begin operating early next year. Babcock Ranch will also be an early implementation site for “on-demand” self-driving vehicles that residents can summon to take them to their destination using a smart-phone app.
The first models and the initial downtown buildings opened last March. Babcock Neighborhood School, located in the heart of town, will open next month at full capacity in grades K-6 and the first residents will be settling into their innovative new home town by the end of the year.
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