Car charging stations due soon in region

| Saturday, July 2, 2011

With electric automobiles coming to Pittsburgh by the end of the year, a California-based company plans to established electric charging stations in this region.

The company, 350Green LLC, said this week it plans to build and operate a network of 21 fast-charging and 54 dual-charging stations for electric vehicles across Pennsylvania, mainly in shopping areas in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Exact locations are being determined.

The dual units will have two connectors that can charge two cars simultaneously.

Other companies are joining in the rush to get charging stations ready for what some automobile experts believe will be strong sales of electric cars.

One is Eaton Corp., which has Eaton Electrician Group locations in Moon, Findlay, Marshall and Beaver County.

"We like Pittsburgh because we expect many residents will buy the Nissan Leaf, an all-electric car, when it comes out later this year," 350Green President and founder Tim Mason said.

The Leaf is expected to be delivered to Pittsburgh-area dealers in late this year or in early 2012, said Travis McNeil, sales manager for #1 Cochran Nissan in Dormont.

"Once an order is placed for the Leaf by the customer, a team from Nissan will visit the buyer's home to determine if there is a 220-volt line on the property. If there is, they will offer to install a charging station - for a one-time fee, as yet undetermined - in the house," he said.

The Chevrolet Volt also is expected to be in the Pittsburgh region before the end of the year, according to a General Motors Co. spokesman. Last month, GM opened up orders for the Volt to all 50 states. GM said it plans to add two shifts at the Detroit-area plant that builds the car.

The Volt, unlike the Leaf, has a small gasoline engine that supplements the electric drive when the battery is depleted.

Installation of charging stations will begin on July 20 and the project is expected to be completed by June 20, 2012, 350Green's Mason said.

"We have been working with Simon Properties Group, to place the stations in their shopping centers," he said. In Pittsburgh, Simon has the Ross Park Mall in Ross, South Hills Shopping Center in Bethel Park and Upper St. Clair, and Century Three Mall in West Mifflin. All will be candidates for the charging stations, Mason said.

The stations will also be located in other shopping areas with large grocery stores, and in highly travelled shopping communities, he said.

The self-serve charging stations can top off or partially charge a customer's vehicle in 60 to 120 minutes, which allows a shopper to leave their vehicle while they shop, Mason said.

"We will own and operate the stations long term," Mason said. Prices for using the stations will be announced this year.

Eaton Corp. is building charging stations that it will sell to investors. An Eaton station is displayed at the company's plant in Marshall.

"There are initiatives to build one this year in the Pittsburgh area," spokeswoman Tracee Humes said.

The Eaton stations, called Pow-r Station, are manufactured at a plant in North Carolina plant, she said. How many charging stations Eaton will build and sell in the Pittsburgh region will depend on sales of electric vehicles.

Charging stations are already operating at Simon's Florida Mall in Orlando and should be in operation at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, Calif., spokesman Les Morris said. Car Charging Inc. installed the Florida unit while 350Green did the California one, he said.

Recently, Chicago officials awarded 350Green a $1.9 million contract for installing 280 electric charging stations in the city and suburbs by the end of this year.

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