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Town ponders EV chargers in parks

Farragut could be at the forefront of the electronic vehicle movement if it continues with preliminary plans to install public access car chargers in its parks.

The plans were discussed at an electric vehicle infrastructure program, presented by ECOtality, which is heading up a federal testing project to install public car chargers in six states, including Tennessee.

“This allows us to test and see how it will all come together,” Jeremy Covert, of ECOtality, told a small audience assembled at Town Hall Tuesday, April 26.

“It is an experiment. This is all just a giant human experiment,” Covert said.

The ECOtality program involves incentives and freebies to residents who purchase electric vehicles, and to the public entities that provide infrastructure, including charging stations.

Residents with electric cars get a $2,500 state incentive, a $7,500 federal incentive, plus a free DC charging port and wall mount fueling station from ECOtality just for being part of the testing program.

Tennessee is scheduled to get 1,000 electric Nissan LEAFs, which piloted in the state, and Covert said Volkswagen Group of America recently announced it would be manufacturing its electric vehicles at its Chattanooga plant.

Hosts such as the town of Farragut, if it were to decide to participate, get a free public charging station and free installation up to $2,250.

When the program ends in December 2012, the Town would become owner of the charging stations it received through ECOtality.

“Ultimately, it’s a bunch of free stuff,” Covert said.

ECOtality is using the testing program to collect information regarding charge times and rates of usage, among other things, for the Department of Energy. Covert stressed ECOtality would not be collecting any personal information.

Town associate administrator Gary Palmer said the Town was considering placing electric vehicle chargers at Town parks, including Campbell Station, Mayor Bob Leonard and McFee.

Palmer also said he hoped to convince Farragut business owners to join the program as well, and host EV charging stations along the Town’s main corridors.

According to Covert, ECOtality’s goal in choosing installation sites is to avoid favoring one type of host over another. Charging stations could be installed in retail areas, at restaurants, grocery stores, libraries, theaters, hotels, hospitals, universities and destination spots.

“These are not really intended as a full charger, but to extend a vehicle range and to relieve range anxiety,” Covert said.

Many of the electric vehicles being released have a range of about 100 miles on a full charge. The public charging stations increase that range and ease motorists’ worries that they’ll travel beyond their charge and become stranded.

ECOtality has a limited number of charging stations — for both residents and public hosts — that can be had for free.

The deadline to install a charging station through the ECOtality program is December 2011.


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