East Valley gets charged up for electric vehicles - East Valley Tribune: Business

East Valley gets charged up for electric vehicles

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Posted: Friday, February 25, 2011 4:31 pm | Updated: 10:08 am, Mon Feb 28, 2011.

An experiment scrapped by General Motors nearly a decade ago now is being charged up in Chandler to help motorists combat the rising costs of gasoline.

Executives from California-based ECOtality, Chandler city leaders and representatives from SRP announced on Friday the beginning of the installation of 900 residential charging stations for electric vehicles and the forthcoming mass hook-up of 1,150 commercial chargers for the vehicles planned in the spring.

The Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas are among two areas in 17 states where ECOtality has partnered with the Department of Energy for a $230 million project to install the charging stations for the vehicles, which allow can go for 100 miles on a full charge at a cost of 2 cents per mile.

The demand for such vehicles is increasing. Eighty percent of the charging stations will be placed at areas such as major shopping malls and auto dealerships throughout the Valley, with the remaining 20 percent being placed in Tucson.

Consumers are looking for ways to avoid spending a large portion of their paychecks at the gas pumps, and there are more than 20,000 reservations for the 2011 model electric vehicles throughout the nation, according to Don Karner, president of ECOtality’s North American division.

“We are taking the first steps in what we believe will be a new way of transportation,” Karner said Friday at a crowded press conference at the Chandler Innovations Incubator center. “This is a big step and a proud moment. We’re looking at better ways to deploy infrastructure for the chargers and make transportation affordable to people. These cars aren’t the single solution for alternative ways of transportation, but they are part of the solution. They will help with energy security, climate change and environmental issues.”

The carbon emissions of an electric vehicle are one-third of what a gasoline vehicle emits, according to Karen Smith, an SRP spokeswoman in for energy efficiency.

The Chevy Volt, another electric vehicle, will be available in Arizona later this year.

General Motors launched an electric vehicle experiment in the 1990s but scrapped it in 2003. Public charging stations for the cars were eliminated two years later, but they soon will re-emerge. It takes anywhere from two to seven hours to fully charge a vehicle through an ECOtality charger, known as a Blink charging station.

Karner also said the company is working with SRP to meet requirements for installation of the 240-volt chargers with a 30-amp circuit and negotiate electricity costs for off-peak times in the summer. An air conditioner in an electric vehicle will use about 10 percent of the generator’s power.

About one-third of the chargers installed in the state will provide service from SRP, with others throughout the state using APS power.

In January, Clayton Saffell, an aerospace engineer at Honeywell in Tempe who lives in Chandler, was the 17th person in the country and the fourth in Arizona to receive an electric vehicle — a white 2011 Nissan Leaf he said cost $32,000, but came with a $7,500 federal rebate. The Leaf replaced his 2009 Honda Fit. Saffell’s Mazda MX-5 now is covered up in his garage as if it’s already a classic car.

Two weeks ago, Saffell became the first in Arizona to have an ECOtality charging station installed in the garage at his home. He said it has costs him $5.27 to travel 1,000 miles on 71.74 kilowatts of electricity the last month. His commute to work is just five miles, and he recently had to stop at a Nissan dealership in Scottsdale for 2 1/2 hours to fully charge the car.

“It’s been wonderful,” Saffell, 31, said of his new ride. “I’ve been interested in electrical vehicles since college. My parents used to have a 1997 Chevy S-10 electrical truck, but sold it. It was great. The electric company announces what their rates are going to be, but gas stations don’t. We don’t know what gas prices are going to be in the summer or even tomorrow.”

The fifth electric vehicle in Arizona, another Nissan Leaf, will be delivered on Monday.

CONTACT WRITER: (480) 898-6533 or msakal@evtrib.com

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