If you drive an electric vehicle, you can pull into the CMS Energy headquarters parking garage in downtown Jackson and top it off, or get a full charge at no cost.
At an event Friday, Consumers Energy officials and several elected officials will promote the availability of four new electric vehicle charging stations in the Francis Street parking garage, as well as Consumers electric vehicle program.
At this time, any charging for the energy consumption is free, said Sally Scripps, manager of grid applications development for the Jackson-based utility.
Scripps said the cost a bank would charge the utility in credit card swipe fees to complete the transaction would be more than the cost to charge the car, so Consumers is providing the service for free.
The stations were provided through a Department of Energy grant funded by the federal stimulus package.
Among the reasons Consumers Energy is offering the service is to encourage people to embrace the technology.
We would love to have customers adopt electric vehicles, Scripps said. Its better for the environment, and Volts are built (by General Motors Co.) in Michigan.
Consumers has been working for years to prepare for the move toward electric vehicles, consulting with General Motors and state regulators. The utility offers a variety of rate designs for electric vehicle owners who want to charge their vehicles at home. The different rate options allow customers to either pay a fixed rate or allow them to save money by choosing to charge their vehicle during the late-night and early morning hours when electricity is cheaper.
The utility also offers an incentive program to reimburse the installation and purchase cost of a home charging station up to $2,500 which would cover a large portion of the cost for the first 2,500 customers.
To fully charge a Volt, it can take six to eight hours on a standard household outlet. The charging stations have a higher voltage level that cuts the charge time in half.
Scripps said people can plug in their Volt and could then go shopping downtown while it charges. The Volt has an alarm that will go off if an unauthorized person tries to unplug it. There also are apps for smartphones that can alert the owner when the Volt has finished charging, she said.
Once fully charged, the Volt can travel about 40 miles before the gasoline engine kicks in.
Consumers has 10 Chevy Volts that employees and company officers are driving this year. Each is equipped with a decal that says Powered by Consumers Energy.
Several of those can be seen inside the parking garage downtown, where employees go to charge them.
The city owns the parking garage, but only Consumers employees can park in it during the weekday until 3 p.m. After that and during the weekends, the public can use the parking garage.
But those with an electric vehicle can pull into the garage at any time of day and charge it.
Bob Dietz, parking manager for the city of Jackson, said the utility approached the city with the idea of the charging stations and the city gave Consumers permission to install them.
Dietz said Consumers installed them at their own cost and will provide the electricity and all the maintenance.
There is no cost to the city at all, Dietz said.
Other cities around the state are installing such charging stations, but Dietz said Jackson does not have any room in its budget to do so, and it was glad Consumers wanted to provide the service.
Scripps said there is another charging station at the utilitys Parnall Road facility the public can also use.
The utility also has charging stations in other communities, including Lansing, Grand Rapids and Royal Oak.
Scripps said Consumers Energy plans to install charging stations at a number of the utilitys service centers going forward.