Pa. to get electric car-charging network

    A California-based company announced plans Friday to install a network of electric vehicle-charging stations around Pennsylvania. The 66 electric hookups, about half of them in the Philadelphia area, are designed for drivers of the new Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt.

    “This project addresses the chicken and egg problem of electric vehicles and charging stations,” said Mariana Gerzanych, CEO of 350Green, the company that will start installing the stations this summer. This “will give consumers a choice, a choice to what to drive, how much to pay for their transportation and how much pollution to create.”

    Twenty-two fast-charging and 44 slower charging stations will be installed in parking lots of grocery stores, shopping malls and office buildings. The quick stations refill the battery of a Nissan Leaf in under a half hour. The slow ones take several hours.

    The $2.6 million project is partially funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

    For early adopters already hitting the roads with EVs, the stations should help make life easier. Don Auker, who has been driving his $100,000 Tesla Roadster for about two years, is still rather infatuated with the sleek two-seater. He claims the car is badly in need of a cleaning after the messy winter even though it is nearly spotless.

    A software developer from Lebanon County, Auker said he loves that his electric car means he can say goodbye to gas pumps, but it does require some work.

    “At this point, to go beyond my range, I have to do a lot of planning in advance, make sure that I will be able to plug in at various places,” Auker said.

    Driving across the state last fall, Auker called ahead to an RV park on his route to ask permission to plug his car in for an hour. With new charge stations scattered around the state, he said he will have more freedom to be spontaneous.

    He’ll also have more trunk room. He points to a thick charging cord and adapter taking up a significant portion of his Tesla’s tiny trunk.

    “Once the charge points are out there, I will not need to carry that with me,” Auker said. “I can just pull up, plug in, charge up, get some lunch and come back to my car.”

    For Auker, energy independence is a lifestyle–both his car and his house are powered by the solar panels on his roof.

    Brian Collins, from the environmental group Penn Future, hopes the charging stations will not only help make life easier for early adopters, but encourage mainstream drivers to chose electric.

    “Once people see these chargers and they see these cars on the road, they’re going to be more likely and probably even eager, to start to buy these electric cars,” Collins said.

    The 350Green chargers should be up and running by the summer of 2012. Prices for charging up have not been set.

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