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Friday, June 18, 2010

$15 Mil More for Green Vehicle Chargers

Tempe-based Ecotality Inc. is getting another $15 million from the stimulus act to install electric-car charging stations for Nissan and now Chevrolet vehicles, the company said Thursday.

Ecotality previously was awarded a $99.8 million stimulus grant to provide free home-charging stations for 4,700 people who buy Nissan Leaf electric vehicles starting later this year.

The original grant also covered several thousand public charging stations for the cars in Phoenix-Tucson, San Diego, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington.

The additional $15 million will extend the program to Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and include free home chargers for 1,000 more Leaf buyers and 2,600 qualified people who buy Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid vehicles.

The grant money will save customers the cost of installing a 220-volt home charger that will replenish their battery faster than the standard, 120-volt wall outlet.

Home chargers could cost $2,000, Nissan and Chevrolet officials estimate, depending on how much electrical work is required on a home. Federal tax credits can cover as much as half the charger's cost up to $2,000 through this year.

Electric-vehicle drivers who participate in Ecotality's EV Project and get free chargers will be required to share their charging data with Ecotality, which will study how people use their cars and batteries to efficiently deploy the infrastructure for thousands more cars.

"We are working with stakeholders in each region (of the project) to see what makes sense for a mature infrastructure," Ecotality spokeswoman Jeanine L'Ecuyer said.

The Phoenix area will begin to get Ecotality chargers this fall.

"A lot of drivers are anxious to make that clean break from fossil fuels," L'Ecuyer said.

Arizona drivers who qualify for the project can get a free home charger with a Leaf but not with a Volt. Most of the free Ecotality chargers for Volt drivers will to go Los Angeles, she said. "But people in Phoenix who buy a Volt will be able to charge it because of the public infrastructure we are deploying," she said. "Those drivers will know there is a way to charge their car."

The expansion into Los Angeles is apparently unaffected by that city's recent City Council vote to boycott Arizona over its immigration law.

Ecotality and its 40 or so partners on the EV Project will match the grants from the government, meaning the total cost of the project is $229.6 million, twice the $114.8 million from stimulus grants.

Ecotality officials hope the research project not only creates jobs - 5,500 by 2017 - but that it puts the publicly traded company in a strong position to serve the U.S. market for electric vehicles.

Ecotality is not alone in its field. Campbell, Calif.-based Coulomb Technologies also makes chargers, and the company also got a Stimulus Act grant, although at $15 million it is far less than Ecotality's project has received so far.

Coulomb also will match its grant with contributions from the company and partners.

Coulomb's ChargePoint America program will provide 4,700 chargers in Austin, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, Sacramento, San Jose/San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Bellevue/Redmond, Wash.

Coulomb is working with Ford, Chevrolet and Smart USA.

Drivers of the vehicles are likely to use their chargers differently because some will have all-electric cars, like the Leaf, while others will have plug-in hybrids, like the Volt, which will have a gas-powered engine to extend the battery's range.

"Many owners will plug their Volt into a normal 120-volt electrical outlet, charge overnight and drive to work in the morning using only battery power," said Tony DiSalle, the Volt's marketing director in a statement. "For Volt owners who want to install a faster 240-volt charge station, we expect the Department of Energy project to save $1,000 and $2,000."

Other charging-station competitors looking to capitalize on the wave of electric cars planned in the next few years include AeroVironment Inc., which has a deal for chargers in South Carolina, and Better Place, which promotes chargers and public-service stations to swap out depleted electric-car batteries.

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/business/articles/2010/06/17/20100617ecotality-gets-another-15-mil-stimulus-electric-car-chargers.html#ixzz0rD9UZV2g

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