Thursday, July 9, 2009

New garage can charge electric cars

Metro installs two plug-in stations By Anne Paine • THE TENNESSEAN • July 9, 2009 Metro employees with an electric vehicle at the city's Fulton Campus can take advantage of VIP parking and juice up their cars at the same time. Metro has installed two stations in primo spots in its new parking garage so employees can charge their or Metro's electric cars while they're in the office. Metro doesn't actually have any such cars, but one or more will be purchased by the end of the year, according to Velvet Hunter, assistant director for administration in Metro's general services department. While some short-distance models are available from companies like VerdeGoh! in Williamson County, production is increasing on electric vehicles, with Nissan, for instance, announcing plans to begin sales in the United States next year. "I think it's important for Metro to set an example for the community," Hunter said. "We're working with agencies to identify if electric vehicles may be appropriate for their operations, in which case we could buy more than one or two." The City of Franklin has one-upped Nashville by buying an electric vehicle that the police department began using last month as a money-saving way to patrol for parking violators. Many of the less-polluting, electric vehicles available now can run about 30 miles on a charge and go up to 35 mph, so any that Metro purchases soon probably would be aimed at use in the downtown area. A range of vehicles is under consideration that could cost $7,000 to more than $20,000, Hunter said. Box contains plugs Wednesday afternoon, Chris Reich, with Green Power Technology, pressed a small plastic card on a key ring against one of the two power boxes his company supplied Metro for the garage. The sleek box, which looks something like a coin changer with a digital readout, opened to reveal an electric plug. It locks, also, when the car is charged, he said. Information moves to a company in California via a cell-phone-like connection, including billing data about how much charge the car takes and what it cost. The data is all available in a few minutes online, he said. Hunter said stations where the public could charge cars using a credit card should be available by the Fulton Campus' opening in the fall of 2010. The campus includes the Metro Office Building, Howard Office Building and Lindsley Hall. The public could have a fee of a few dollars included in the cost of a charge, Reich said. Charlie Grimes, who owns a hybrid and an electric Tomberlin, called the plans "great." "If there's a place outside where someone could plug in, that would be terrific," he said. "It's like going to the airport now and you have plugs for your laptop." He charges his step-up-from-a-golf-cart vehicle, which can go 35 mph and has seat belts, a horn and license plates, at an outlet at home. He and his family tend to stick to Westhaven, a Franklin-area mixed-use development, where the speed limit is 20 mph, he said. The VerdeGoh! General Store, also in Westhaven, is one of the few locales with a public, complimentary charging station. Stations cost $9,000 The cost to "fill up" varies with the type of vehicle, how low the battery is and kilowatt-hour costs. Hunter estimated a full charge for an electric vehicle with a 30-mile range at roughly 60 cents. Employees who apply and are accepted will receive a plastic card to access the boxes and can charge for free, at least for now. The two stations added $9,000 in costs to the just under $14 million garage, which has green features including cooling cross-ventilation, pre-cast walls from nearby Smyrna and preferential parking for hybrid drivers, carpoolers and bikers. A side benefit for employees owning an electric car is that they'll have a place even closer to the Metro Office Building than the top bosses there. Elected officials and dire Sectors of departments there, including planning, codes and the election commission, have reserved spots on the far side of the charging stations.

No comments: