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Transportation Nation

Electric Car Advocates Hope for a Quiet Revolution on Central Florida Streets

Monday, October 01, 2012

Electric cars lined up near Lake Eola, downtown Orlando (Photo by Matthew Peddie)

Electric vehicle charging stations are springing up all over Florida -- and a lot of them are concentrated around Orlando, which has more than 150 stations within a 70-mile radius. But uptake in central Florida has been ... slow.

The Orlando Utilities Commission, which has installed 78 charging stations around the city, estimates there are about 700 electric vehicles currently on the road in Orlando. That's a tiny percentage of the 915,960 cars and pickup trucks registered in Orange County, which encompasses most of the Orlando metropolitan area.

But alternative fuel advocates are hopeful the vehicles will eventually catch on in the Sunshine State. Florida's electric vehicle infrastructure is growing quickly, and the U.S. Department of Energy lists 319 public charging stations across the state, provided with funding from federal stimulus money.

Map of EV charging stations (Image: US Department of Energy)

Orlando resident Mark Thomasen has been an advocate for electric vehicles in the city since 2008.  He worked for a company that installed many of the charging stations and now writes an EV blog. He says it's been a challenge to build up acceptance of electric vehicles in the area. "There's not as much of a green movement in central Florida, and in Florida versus say Washington, or Oregon or Colorado."

Motorists might also balk at the upfront price.  Chevrolet's plug-in electric-gasoline hybrid Volt sedan has a list price of $39,145, while Nissan's all-electric Leaf, has a base price of $35,000.  Even with the $7,500 federal tax rebate, the cars are comparatively expensive.

But Thomasen is confident EVs will catch on in Florida. He says they don't face some of  the challenges of hydrogen, such as how to generate and store the gas, as well as the need to dvelop a high capacity, durable and inexpensive fuel cell. And he says even if drivers aren't worried about the environmental cost of gasoline, EVs should appeal to people who don't want to rely on foreign oil.

Mark Thomasen (photo by Matthew Peddie)

"Over here, what matters to people is energy independence," he says. "People don't realize how much fuel we use and how little we have within our border. So by moving to an electric car and getting off of that, we go to a different fuel source."

And Thomasen says electric vehicles at least have the infrastructure to support them, unlike hydrogen fuel cars.

Seven years ago there was a big push to build a hydrogen fuel infrastructure in California and in Florida. In 2005,  Florida Governor Jeb Bush broke ground on the state's first hydrogen fueling station in Orlando.  “Florida is spurring investment in the development and use of pollution-free hydrogen technology,” said Gov. Bush.  The new station was to be part of a "hydrogen hub" in central Florida, and the first of a series of stations fueling a fleet of clean energy vehicles.

Gov. Bush breaks ground on Florida's 'Hydrogen Highway' (photo courtesty of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory)

After Jeb Bush left office, Florida's new governor Charlie Crist grabbed the renewable fuel baton. He cut the ribbon on the station in May 2007, and touted it as a way to wean the nation off foreign oil. A fleet of minibuses operated by the Orange County convention center was adapted to run on hydrogen supplied by the station. Progress Energy, one of the partners in the project, opened a second refueling station near Oviedo as part of a nationwide demonstration project on fuel cell vehicles, led by the US Department of Energy. Eventually though, Florida's hydrogen highway evaporated. After two years and 3,200 fill-ups, the two hydrogen refueling stations shut down and the pilot program finished.

California's hydrogen efforts met similar results: the state now has a handful of  hydrogen fueling stations, but nowhere near the number former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger envisioned back in 2004.

James Fenton, who directs the Florida Solar Energy Center, a research facility at the University of Central Florida, says hydrogen still has a place in the future of alternative fuels in Florida. But he says it's more likely to be used in fuel cells in electric vehicles rather than powering internal combustion engines. "Eventually we'll get to the point when all the battery-powered electric cars will have fuel cell range extenders," says Fenton. "You'll have electric cars with batteries for short trips because the electron out of the wall is dirt cheap, then you'll electrolyze water somewhere else, fill your car with hydrogen and extend the range."

And while electric vehicles aren't yet a common sight on central Florida roads, Fenton says he's upbeat about their future because mile for mile, electricity out of the wall is cheaper than gasoline. But he says there are still some obstacles to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

"We don't have a hydrogen infrastructure," says Fenton. "That's the kicker."

Electric Charging Station, Orlando City Hall (photo by Matthew Peddie)

 

 

 

 

 

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Transportation Nation

New York State to Add Hundreds of EV Charging Stations

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Chevy Volt (Photo: GM)

New York will more than double its electric vehicle charging capacity, installing 325  new stations across the state in high-traffic locations like supermarket parking lots, hotels, train and bus stations, apartment buildings, hospitals, and parking garages. The state has awarded $4.4 million to ten companies and municipalities to install the stations.

Currently the state has approximately 200 EV sites in that offer 400 electrified parking spaces.

In a press release, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo said the effort would encourage New Yorkers to make the switch from gas-powered cars -- and provide an economic boost to the state.

Preliminary locations in New York City include an MTA facility in Battery Park, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and dozens of parking garages citywide. Each station will have approximately two to six chargers.

The press release also noted that "transportation makes up about three-fourths of the state’s oil consumption, and nearly 40 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions."

According to the administration, the charging stations must be installed by April 2013 -- although many will be in place by the end of this year.

The list of projects can be found below.

Access Technology Integration Inc. – Plans to install charging stations with innovative reservation and payment systems at seven locations around the Albany area, including St. Peter’s Hospital, Albany-Rensselaer Train Station, Times Union Center, universities, supermarkets, and other locations. NYSERDA funding: $244,000.

Beam Charging LLC – Company will install a total of 28 charging stations, each one in a separate public parking garage around Manhattan, for the purpose of gathering data to determine how well such charging stations are used. $400,000.

Car Charging Group Inc. – Plans to install charging stations at up to 15 high-traffic locations in New York City, directed toward apartment dwellers who do not have parking at home. Sites would go in parking garages that are used primarily for monthly parking. NYSERDA funding: $200,000.

City of Rochester – Plans to install 24 charging stations at seven highly-visible and busy locations around the city, including municipal parking garages, City Hall, the Port of Rochester and the Rochester Public Market. NYSERDA funding: $228,000.

Coulomb Technologies Inc. – Partnering with National Grid, Coulomb will deploy 81 dual charging stations with Coulomb’s ChargePoint software. The technology will demonstrate a web-based demand response program, a new low-cost installation method and a customized reservation system. NYSERDA funding: $1 million.

EV Connect Inc. – Plans to install EV charging stations at five Marriott hotels around New York State that make use of a unique reservation and payment system. Project would make it possible for overnight visitors to charge their vehicles while staying at a hotel. NYSERDA funding: $250,000.

Golub Corp. (Price Chopper Supermarkets) - Plans to install 12 charging stations at four locations, each equipped with a weather canopy and lighting to make them visible. This is the first phase of an intended statewide rollout. NYSERDA funding: $325,000.

New York Port Authority – Plans to install seven experimental charging stations for fleet vehicles and public use that practice demand-response (aligning charging times with times of low power demands, reducing charging cost and impact during peak demand to the grid). NYSERDA funding: $720,000.

New York Power Authority – Plans to install 124 charging stations at train and bus stations, airports and municipal parking lots. Three sites would be powered in part through on-site solar power. NYSERDA funding: $989,000.

Plugin Stations Online – Plans to install charging stations at three apartment complexes in Albany, Rochester and Buffalo, as well as one at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy. NYSERDA funding: $64,000.

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