A nonprofit group Wednesday launched a statewide network of charging stations it says will help make electric vehicles more practical.
Plug In Carolina is a group sponsored by the state’s utility companies that aims to create an infrastructure for electric cars in South Carolina by installing 80 charging stations across the state. The stations will initially appear in Blythewood, Columbia, Greenville, Rock Hill, Spartanburg, and Union. The group said they hope to expand into Charleston and the Grand Strand by the end of January.
Jim Poch is Plug In Carolina’s executive director. He says the stations will be in place for people who travel past the range of the electric cars’ batteries, such as commuters or travelers.
The idea for the stations is to encourage the technology and make it a visible thing, that this is out there. These charging stations really should be the secondary charging stations for folks. The primary charging station is at home, overnight.
Electric cars are very rare in South Carolina. The group hopes the release of the new Nissan Leaf electric car and Chevrolet Volt hybrid will grow the market. Currently, cars such as the Volt can only run 40 miles on an electric motor before they switch over to a combustion engine. Poch hopes the stations will allow car owners to recharge their vehicles once they’ve traveled past that range.
The stations are being funded with 480,000 in federal stimulus money. $240,00 in funding came from a Department of Energy Clean Cities grant, while an additional $240,000 was from a state energy program grant.
Poch said the stations will give electric cars more exposure in South Carolina.
It’s more visible and viable because people see it. In my feeling, people have to see a car 20 times. They have to touch a car a couple of times and… have their friends say it’s a good idea. So, this is just one piece of the component to make it realistic.
Governor Mark Sanford also spoke at the press conference. Sanford said support for electric cars is reaching a “point of critical mass.”
The array of different involvements, whether from the standpoint of energy companies, whether it’s the standpoint of state or local government, the standpoint of private investment, we really are getting to that point. I think that this footprint of, in essence, filling stations across the state is going to fill that out.
For Poch, Wednesday’s launch was special after four years of work on the network.
It gives me a lot of optimism for our country because, four years ago, this was just something that I read on the internet and said, “Hey, this is something that we should do.” Now, we’re actually having electric vehicles hit the streets. For the auto industry to go from nothing to hitting the streets is huge.
Most of the charging stations will be located at parking garages, along streets, and at stores. Depending on the type of charging station, it could take as little as thirty minutes for each recharge or as long as six hours.
Tim Old works with electric vehicles in the Eaton Corporation. He says the stations are meant to be in places that would not inconvenience drivers.
People are asking us, “Where would you put these chargers?” I always say: where would you stand still for 20 to 30 minutes and not be upset? Restaurants, shopping malls, and so on.
Stations that took longer to recharge cars would be located in parking garages, where commuters could plug in during the day while they are at work.