RI to build charging stations for electric cars
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- Rhode Island got its first public charging station for electric vehicles at a furniture store in West Warwick back in 2010, before the electric-powered Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S debuted to rave reviews.
Three years later, the state has 11 public charging stations, the most recent one becoming available at Rhode Island College last month. While that number is fewer than some had hoped, it is about to more than triple with the state's plans to install 30 more charging stations by Aug. 15. The project will be paid for by federal stimulus money.
Those pushing for greater use of electric vehicles say the plan is an exciting one that will help encourage drivers to buy electric.
"The purpose of the stations is really to relieve range anxiety and give them peace of mind to know they can buy a vehicle and charge it whenever they want," said Al Dahlberg, who founded Project Get Ready Rhode Island in 2010 along with a coalition of environmentalists, business groups and government officials to get the state ready for more electric cars.
Most people will be charging their cars overnight at home, Dahlberg said, but around 10 to 15 percent of charging will happen at workplaces. For example, the station at Rhode Island College is being used by a teacher who drives a hybrid plug-in Toyota Prius to her job at a grade school on campus, said college spokeswoman Rebecca Keister. She said the teacher is now able to do her entire commute without using gas.
The public charging stations now open in Rhode Island are free and located at places including train stations in Warwick and North Kingstown and car dealerships. The state hasn't yet announced where the 30 new charging stations will be built, though it has said at least 80 percent should be publicly accessible and at least three should be on state property.
Dahlberg said there are several things to consider when deciding where to put them. Good sites would be those with high visibility, proximity to major transportation arteries and potential buyers of electric vehicles, and places where people generally stay for two to four hours, including malls, tourist sites, universities and hospitals.
There are more than 900 charging stations in New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and the District of Columbia, according to the Georgetown Climate Center, which works with those states to reduce greenhouse gas and promote use of clean vehicles and fuels.
States are taking a variety of steps to encourage electric vehicles, said Cassandra Powers of the Georgetown Climate Center. For example, Massachusetts recently launched a program to provide local communities with money for electric vehicles and charging stations, while Pennsylvania is installing charging stations along the turnpike and recently renewed an incentive program for people who purchase electric vehicles. Vermont and New York are discussing ways to remove regulatory barriers, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed spending $50 million to stimulate demand for electric vehicles.
Marion Gold, Rhode Island's commissioner of energy, said the state right now is concentrating on infrastructure but in the next year will be looking at whether to offer an incentive program.
There are now 100,000 electric vehicles on the road in the U.S., Powers said.
It's not clear how many electric vehicles have been registered in Rhode Island. The Department of Motor Vehicles hasn't kept such statistics in the past, but recently began the process of keeping track.
Project Get Ready set a goal of getting 10,000 electric vehicles registered in the state by 2015. While Dahlberg says progress has not been as quick as he hoped in Rhode Island, he still thinks that goal is achievable and notes that sales of electric vehicles nationwide are steady and increasing every year.
"Every new technology takes time to gain consumer acceptance," he said. "This is a transformation that's going to take decades."