Charge ’er up

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DRC/David Minton
Six electric vehicle charging stations were recently installed on the campus of the University North Texas, including these two in the parking lot of Wooten Hall. The charging stations were installed through the EV project.

UNT adds vehicle charging stations, giving the city eight locations

No one is sure who will use them, but the electric vehicle charging stations have been installed at the University of North Texas.

The six UNT stations make a total of eight charging stations in Denton.

Two were installed this summer at The Cupboard Natural Foods and Cafe on Congress Street.

The store decided to add them because they are in line with its initiative to be more sustainable.

Harmony Leonard, the manager on duty at The Cupboard, said it’s an easy process for the store, which basically did the installation and now simply provides the electricity.

And Denton can expect to see a lot more popping up around town once the city selects its sites for up to 20 additional stations.

They are all Blink charging stations that were installed as part of the EV Project, which uses grant money from the U.S. Department of Energy.

In shape, the charging stations look similar to a gas pump, but they’re smaller and have an electric cord.

The goal of the EV Project is to install 5,000 charging stations in target areas. It was developed to put the infrastructure in place to encourage more people to purchase electric vehicles.

ECOtality Inc., a company focused on clean electric transportation and storage technologies, is carrying out the project, which started in 2009. It was awarded about $230 million through grants and partner matches.

Dave Aasheim, ECOtality’s south central regional manager, said that having the infrastructure in place “takes the science fiction out of it.”

It allows people to see that if they buy an electric vehicle, there will be charging stations available to keep them running, and having the charging stations visible takes the mystery out of it, he said.

UNT approached ECOtality about installing the stations on its campus.

The six charging stations were installed at the end of the fall semester. Two are located in the parking lot behind the Radio, TV, Film and Performing Arts Building, two are located in the Wooten Hall parking lot and two are located in the Environmental Education, Science and Technology Building parking lot.

Two were originally planned near the Murchison Performing Arts Center and the Gateway Building instead of the environmental science building.

Aasheim said the EV Project had identified all of its participants as of the end of 2012, but it is still in the process of installing the last of them, including the ones for the city of Denton.

“What’s showing up on the [Blink] map now is going to evolve and get larger,” Aasheim said.

The ones that show up on the map are the public stations. There may be other private charging stations that don’t show up on the map, he said.

There will be more than 600 chargers in Texas when the project is through installing them, with about 350 located in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Aasheim said.

As part of the EV Project, Blink charging stations, valued at $3,000 apiece, have been installed in 21 cities in nine states as well as the District of Columbia. States include Arizona, California, Tennessee, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Illinois and Georgia.

The Blink stations being installed are called level two chargers, which means they are connected to a 220-volt electrical panel.

“For every hour you plug in, it puts a 12- to 15-mile range back into your car,” Aasheim said of this type of charger.

Through the EV Project, ECOtality covers the cost of the chargers as well as a portion of the installation costs. Installation can cost between $2,000 and $2,500, he said.

UNT spent $65,737.77 on installing the charging stations on campus and making the changes needed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The money for the project came from the We Mean Green Fund. The fund, which is a $5 per student per semester fee, is designated to lower the environmental impact on the Denton campus.

There is a subcommittee of UNT’s Sustainability Council that is made up mostly of students, who decide which projects get funded. Ideas are submitted by students, faculty and staff.

Anybody can use the university’s new charging stations, said Nicole Cocco, outreach coordinator for the office of sustainability at UNT. But they have to obtain a visitor’s pass from one of the visitor’s booths.

“All the parking rules will still apply,” Cocco said.

The office of sustainability worked with the parking and transportation department to select spots that are centrally located but on the outskirts of campus, she said.

Brad Holt, a videographer at UNT, is excited about the addition to the campus. He’s even more excited about his Tesla Model S for which he’s been waiting a year and half that will plug into the charging stations. Tesla Motors is a California-based manufacturer that only manufactures electric vehicles.

Holt was one of the people who suggested the project to the We Mean Green Fund.

He is expecting his car to be delivered at the end of the month or early in February.

Holt said he was excited to see someone using the charging station last week.

But what does it cost to “fill up?”

Electric vehicle drivers can sign up for a membership through Blink and pay $1 an hour. Through 2013, the membership fee is being waived, according to the Blink website, Blinknetwork.com.

If someone doesn’t want to purchase a membership, which costs up to $30 a year, it costs about $2 an hour to charge on a Blink charger.

During the EV Project, Blink and ECOtality set the fee, Aasheim said.

“We’re trying to keep it consistent,” he said.

The membership access fee will help the host business or property recover its electricity cost and maintain the chargers, he said.

Leonard, with The Cupboard, said the charges at the store are being used but the electric vehicle customers are quiet about it.

“They don’t have to come in the store for any reason,” Leonard said.

She said it’s an easy process for the store, which basically did the installation and now simply provides the electricity.

“I think the EV owners are extremely savvy,” she said. “They have obviously made a commitment to the environment. I think it’s been very beneficial for our community and our customers. It’s been a win for everyone.”

Aasheim said when choosing locations, ECOtality took recommendations from current electric vehicle drivers as well as businesses that support a sustainable lifestyle, like The Cupboard.

The actual site on the business property depends on the location of the electrical panel, he said.

The city of Denton has asked the EV Project to look at 10 possible sites around the city.

Aasheim said ECOtality installs two per location, so if all the sites in Denton are approved, it would add another 20 charging stations to the city.

Because this is a pilot project, ECOtality is collecting data from the charging stations to determine what are good locations. The data is being posted on the EV Project website.

The project has collected about 60 million miles of data.

Aasheim said 2013 is expected to be an exciting year for electric vehicles because 23 manufacturers are coming out with models.

Some current models include the Nissan Leaf, billed as the first all-electric car widely available in the U.S., the Chevrolet Volt, a gas-electric hybrid that can be plugged in to charge its batteries, the Tesla Model S, Ford Focus Electric, Mitsubishi MiEV and the Honda Fit EV.

All the models can use the Blink charging stations.

Aasheim said, as well as being environmentally friendly, EVs are fun to drive.

 

RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is rmehlhaff@dentonrc.com.


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