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Coulomb Technologies Opens First of 4,600 Car Charging Stations

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On: Wed, Sep 8, 2010 at 9:10AM | By: Chris Weiss

Coulomb Technologies Opens First of 4,600 Car Charging Stations

Everyone loves to talk green vehicles nowadays. However, not everyone loves to drive green vehicles. And no one really loves the idea of getting stranded out on US-50 in eastern Nevada due to a drained pack of lithium-ion.

Range anxiety is a formidable opponent of the electric vehicle industry, and until the country begins to address this issue with action, EVs aren't likely to fly out of dealerships. At least not at the rate they could be flying out of dealerships with the right charging infrastructure.

Well, if you happen to live in Michigan, that process is under way. The proverbial ribbon-cutting ceremony on the nation's first free electric charging station under the ChargePoint America program took place last Thursday. The new charging station stands in front of the NextEnergy in downtown Detroit. The electric juice stand is one of 4,600 that will be installed across the United States under the ChargePoint America program.

Michigan, which is set to be one of the first launch markets for the Chevy Volt, will get several hundred of the free charging stations in areas like Flint, Dearborn and Detroit. Charging stations will go to  businesses, communities and homes. The equipment will come free of charge under the federally funded program, but owners will have to pay the installation fees.

Coulomb Technologies of Campbell, California is spearheading the $37 million nationwide installation program, which includes about $15 million of federal stimulus funding. On their own, each station would otherwise cost between $1,700 and $5,000, so the new program should help defray some of the costs for starting up a charging infrastructure. Installation can cost anywhere from $250 to $4,000.

Coulomb CEO Richard Lowenthal summed up the importance of getting an infrastructure in place: "With cars like this, you’ll never go to the gas station. But you need a place to charge them. If you can’t fuel your vehicle, you won’t buy one."

Lowenthal estimates that the country will need to install two million charging stations to make President Obama's goal of one million plug-in vehicles on U.S. roads by 2015 viable for owners. Nine markets altogether will be included in the ChargePoint America program: Austin, Texas; Detroit; Los Angeles; New York; Orlando, Florida; Sacramento, California; the San Jose/San Francisco Bay Area; Bellevue/Redmond, Washington; and Washington DC. Installation in the other markets is underway.

The ChargePoint program is a partnership between Coulomb and three automakers: Ford, Chevrolet and Smart USA. The stations will be networked to allow utility providers to measure the impact of vehicle charging on their grid and make informed decisions in the future.

Last month, the Michigan Public Service Commission approved the first rates for vehicle charging, which were presented by Detroit Edison. The utility will offer customers a $40/month flat fee and discounted rates for off-peak charging. Detroit Edison will provide customers with up to $2,500 to help defray the costs of installing charging equipment.

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