BREMERTON, Wash. - City officials in Port Orchard, Wash., plan to install an electric vehicle charging station to appeal to a growing market of Seattle-area electric car owners, who may be more apt to visit the town -- and spend money -- if they know they can get back at day's end.
Mayor Lary Coppola will meet soon with representatives of Electric Transportation Engineering, or eTec, a company working with the U.S. Department of Energy and Nissan to install a network of charging stations in test markets across the nation by 2013. The test markets include West Coast states, Arizona, Texas, Tennessee and Washington, D.C.
Nissan is introducing a much-hyped electric car, the Leaf, in December.
Seattle is among a handful of test cities chosen to initiate the EV (electric vehicle) Project. Electric Transportation Engineering received a $99.8 million stimulus grant to install the stations. About 2,200 to 2,300 of them will be in the Puget Sound area, said Linda Streissguth of Puget Sound Energy, which is working with Nissan and eTec to deploy the stations. The EV project grant, designated for the target cities, most likely won't be available to smaller cities like Port Orchard, but there are other stimulus grants for similar purposes, said eTec spokeswoman Jeanine L'Ecuyer.
Port Orchard and PSE officials have to determine the suitability of a proposed city-owned site downtown. The property has an underground vault with wiring that would support a charging station, said Coppola, a former electrician who is also a freelance writer for automotive industry publications.
"We see this as a cutting-edge opportunity for new economic development and a natural expansion of the city's evolving green," Coppola said.
Seattle has more members in the national Electric Auto Association than any other chapter, although not the most electric vehicles on the road, said Steven Lough, president of the Seattle Electric Vehicle Association. The chapter has 195 members.
"In sheer number of wannabes, we're still on top of the heap," said Lough, a former GM dealer who has owned five electric cars since 1980.
Lough said a "groundswell" of interest in electric cars has been fueled by international conflict over oil and environmental catastrophes like the Gulf oil spill, coupled with improved battery technology.
Electric cars' average range is 80 to 100 miles, Lough said.
"To not have a public charging station would be a game spoiler for most electric vehicle owners. It would be nice to be able to park and charge while you do some sightseeing."
Kitsap Transit, using federal transportation funding for rural areas, is installing charging stations at its park and ride lots in Harper and Kingston. Dick Hayes, the agency's executive director, is bullish on EV technology.
"If we're out there with charging stations at the end of the year (when Nissan and Chevrolet are set to release their electric vehicles), it's probably good timing," Hayes said.
As yet, there is little to no coordination among cities, the county and local agencies on creating a comprehensive electric vehicle infrastructure in Kitsap County.
The eTec grant's availability was a strong selling point for Port Orchard, Coppola said, and the city will charge customers to fuel their cars with electricity, so the city will, in theory, break even at the least.
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