$3.4M grant awarded for electric car charging stations

July 8, 2010 1:31:28 PM PDT
A Palo Alto company is launching a $12 million project to build charging stations around the Bay Area for electric cars. The money is coming from federal and state grants to help companies develop alternative energy.

An electric vehicle charging station in Palo Alto is the first official public-use station in California under the new ChargePoint America installation program. It is very fitting that it has been set up outside the Electric Power Research Institute, or EPRI. It is one of 1,600 stations that will soon be installed in homes and public spaces statewide.

Quite a gathering of clean energy proponents helped kick off an announcement that the California Energy Commission is awarding a $3.4 million grant to help install these charging stations statewide.

Silicon Valley company Coulomb Technologies produces and manufactures the electric vehicle charging devices. The state grant is part of a $12 million project to install stations in the three California metro regions of the Bay Area, Sacramento and Los Angeles.

The goal is to help wean the country off oil and help consumers feel comfortable buying electric cars by providing the fuel so they won't get stuck anywhere.

"People are afraid of buying e cars unless they see these things out there, these stations out there, because there's a range anxiety," Coulomb Technologies president Praveen Mandal said. "If you ever drive an electric car you'll see an odometer, a state of charge dial, and the dial moves very, very quickly. So you have a lot of fear of running out of juice, if you will. And that's actually that how this company started."

Coulomb currently has about 500 charging stations, mostly in California and in a few other parts of the U.S.

The charging stations will do more than provide power to electric car owners. They also will begin collecting valuable data to give policy makers, government and industry, and local communities information about how often drivers re-charge their vehicles, how long they are connected to the chargers, and what their mileage has been between charges.

"Although we're extremely excited about electrification, we're also looking into other transportation fuels, biofuels and others really to reduce this enormous dependence that we've got upon oil," state energy commissioner Jeff Byron said.

Byron also points out that the search for all these alternative fuels helps the state comply with its plan to reduce fossil fuel use by 10 percent.

California falls under a grander $37 million ChargePoint America program that will provide nearly 5,000 stations in nine regions across the United States.

Some of the cars coming out include the Chevy Volt and the Toyota Prius Plug-in, which will be on the market in 18 months.

We'll have more on this developing story later today online and on ABC7 News at 6.


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