If General Motors killed the electric car, Nissan resuscitated it. The Japanese automaker just unveiled its new real world plug-in electric vehicle, dubbed Leaf. While the launch of a new all electric car may grab headlines, it’s the infrastructure investment that serves up the meat of the story.
The U.S. Department of Energy granted $99.8 million to ECOtality, a Phoenix, Arizona based company that makes charging stations for electric vehicles. Since the demise of General Motor’s EV1, ECOtality has survived on fleet business, selling fast charging systems for airport ground support equipment and transit vehicles. The federal grant puts ECOtality at the forefront of building the infrastructure needed in the U.S. to support electric vehicles.
As Nissan’s Leaf hits the market in late 2010, ECOtality will deploy nearly 13,000 charging stations in eleven select cities. Those markets include Chattanooga, Nashville, and Knoxville, Tennessee, along with select cities in California, Arizona, Oregon and Washington State.
Nissan’s Leaf will travel about 100 miles on a full charge, enough to get most people from home to work and back. Everyone who purchases one of the 5,000 Leaf’s available in the initial deployment, with receive a home charger installed for free. These devices will boost the battery overnight, typically in about eight hours. ECOtality will also install charging stations at places where early adopters work.
To facilitate travel between cities, ECOtality will be tasked with installing 250 fast charging stations, providing a meaningful boost in about 15 minutes. Company President and CEO Jonathan Read says fast charging stations will help “vehicle owners overcome what is normally referred to as range anxiety, so that they will feel comfortable that they have public infrastructure in place that would support them whenever and where ever they needed to go.”
Read says high traffic areas will be targeted for fast charging stations. Jim Frierson, with Chattanooga’s Advanced Transportation Technology Institute (ATTI) says they’ll start discussing the best locations for fast charges in a few week. Frierson says targets include “places where the public goes and spends time: shopping malls, schools hospitals and other places. Where they don’t just run in or out. So the car might be there a few minutes or few hours.”
Frierson also points out the math involved in how many chargers will be placed. The selected markets sit in five states. 1,000 Nissan Leaf’s will be deployed in each state. That means nearly 2,500 charging stations will be installed in each state. In the case of Tennessee, if split evenly between Chattanooga, Nashville, and Knoxville, there would be over 800 charging stations built in each location. “This is the most ambitious announced deployment of electric vehicles for consumers,” says Frierson.
The other cities selected for this pilot project include Phoenix (AZ), Tucson (AZ), San Diego (CA), Portland (OR), Eugene (OR), Salem (OR), Corvallis (OR), and Seattle (WA).