Public Charging Stations. Now a Drop. Next a Trickle. Then …. ?

Public charging stations are vital for mass adoption of plug-in hybrids because most people do not have access to a garage to do overnight charging. IBM’s Vice President for Energy & Utilities reminded attendees at a recent grid- to- vehicle conference  that only a fraction of vehicle owners park their car in a garage that they own overnight – especially urban dwellers whose short commuting distances are a perfect fit for plug-ins. http://earth2tech.com/2009/05/28/think-plug-in-cars-will-charge-up-at-home-think-again/. Not to mention that Americans want to drive where they want, when they want and will not accept being limited to the area of a single charge. So either public charging infrastructure develops in concert with the rest of the plug-in market or we build cars with trunks big enough to hold really, really long extension cords.

The automated battery quick switch from Project Better Place got a lot of digital attention when it was unveiled in March. http://www.betterplace.com/company/video-detail/better-place-battery-switch-technology-demonstration/  Its cool factor is unquestionable – but maybe its technology is ahead of itself. A steady drumbeat of public battery charging, not replacement, projects has come over the last few months.

Typical deals involve an electric car developer and a cleantech company banding together to push the market a little bit forward. Portland General Electric (NYSE:POR) looks to be one of the more forward thinking utilities as it has installed over a dozen charging stations throughout Oregon.  It makes sense – Portland has the highest per capita hybrid vehicle ownership in the country. It has partnered with Mitsubishi to promote EV use throughout Oregon.  Tiny Ecotalilty of Scottsdale (ETLY:OB) www.ecotality.com, is working with Nissan to do the same for Arizona. The Company’s ETec subsidiary specializes in powering airport ground support equipment (baggage trolleys, carts, belt loaders) and can easily make the transition to autos. It also markets  a de facto public affairs consultancy, The EV Micro-Climate program, to provide municipalities a blueprint for a comprehensive EV infrastructure system and provides detailed action plans for its successful execution and continued maintenance.

Bright Automotive, developer of plug-in light vehicles for office and government fleets, recently announced a deal with Envision Solar to develop solar powered charging stations. Envision develops photovoltaic embedded parking canopies that turn parking spaces into mini solar plants. Axion Power, (AXPW:OTC) www.axionpower.com, will provide the critical storage component. Nissan and AeroEnvironment of Monrovia, CA (Nasdaq: AVAV), www.avinc.com, have recently announced a partnership to bring 100 electric vehicles cars and 100 charging stations to the official Washington D.C public fleet, resulting in around $250K in revenues for the smallcap maker of energy systems and military drones. http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=5003800n%3fsource=search_video. The Company’s PosiCharge™ EV fast charge is a descendant of the GM Impact, an electric vehicle designed by Aero in 1989.

Evergreen Solar (Nasdaq:ESLR), www.evergreensolar.com, of Marlboro, MA inked rolled out a solar power station in Frankfurt this past April.  Its solar station provides six free battery charging units for small-scale electric vehicles including Velotaxis, electric bikes and scooters. It produces approximately 21 kWh per day or enough to power a scooter for approximately 420 miles.

El Dorado Hills-based Premiere Power (PPRW:OTC) http://www.premierpower.com, has built dual-purpose solar canopies on the  roofs of parking garages outside of Trenton, NJ. Amtrak station to power up 110v docking stations of plug-in and electric vehicle riders.

Hybrid/electric vehicle charging might be in the Pong stage, but we could be at the Space Invaders stage before you know it.

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