(Houston - Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) Houston's ambition to become a model city for the electric car just got a major boost from NRG Energy. The power giant is launching the biggest charging network in the nation right here in the oil capital of America.
NRG, a power company, just announced plans to build the country’s first privately-funded electric charging network, called eVgo. And, perhaps surprising to some, it’s starting with Houston. The energy company is spending $10 million on public charging infrastructure, so as to assuage any of that pesky range-anxiety we all keep hearing about. Glen Stancil, with NRG EV Services, says the electric vehicle (EV) chargers will be installed along major roadways in Houston and in the parking lots of retail chains like Walgreens and Best Buy. “Really it’s a commuter car," says Stancil, "and we want to make sure commuters have confidence that when they need power they’ll get it.”
NRG says it will install 150 charging stations by the end of 2011. Some will take thirty minutes to give a full charge, others will take hours. But the majority of EV charging is expected to take place at home — some 80 to 90 percent. David Crane, CEO of NRG, underscores the significance of this, asserting, "the service station of the future is actually your garage."
And NRG, being the electricity company it is, hopes to take over that part of the charging equation too. It’s serving up home charging stations as part of a package, if you sign on with one of their utility partners, that is — like Green Mountain or TXU. The charging packages are akin to a TV and internet bundle. Buyers would get a home charging station plus electricity for the charger and access to the public charging network around Houston. The most expensive plan is $89 dollars a month.
Crane says he hopes to have 1000 subscribers to NRG’s plan by the end of 2011. But he says the demand could increase exponentially in the future. He gave reporters at NRG's press conference a little food for thought:
“I would remind everyone that in 1980 the leading management consulting firm in the United States told AT&T that there’d be no more than 900,000 cell phones in the country by the year 2000. By the year 2000 there were a hundred million cell phones in the United States. So they were off by a factor of 120.”
NRG’s investment in charging stations is unique because it’s the first electricity provider to do it without any money from the federal government. But it could be a while before NRG gets any return on its investment, since the charging stations will sit mostly unused until there are more EVs on the road.