Santa Cruz County gets handful of electric vehicle charging stations, more to come

The revolution looks like a series of slender towers, each with lengthy hoses attached and each capable of taking Visa or MasterCard. To show how harmless the revolution really is, Kenneth Adelman first put his finger to the end of one hose, then his tongue.
Local electric vehicle advocates on Thursday unveiled a small network of electric charging stations to be installed around the county, an early but critical step in building a broader network that could -- on top of state and federal tax breaks and the skyrocketing price of gas -- make electric vehicles the preferred option for consumers, helping end U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

"We are here now to really launch the modern-day, 21st-century kind of charging stations," said Sharon Sarris, co-chair of the Monterey Bay Electric Vehicle Alliance. "I think they really prove that this new world of transportation is here."

Adelman, who was demonstrating the safety of electric charging cords, is among the longest-tenured and most vocal advocates of electric cars. Others were on hand for Thursday's ribbon-cutting at Santa Cruz's Ecology Action, including the Monterey Bay Electric Vehicle Alliance, the Plug-In Alliance, and more.

Also was on hand were several businesses involved in the electric vehicle industry, including Scotts Valley-based Zero Motorcycles and Salinas-based Green Vehicles. The initial stations are paid for through federal stimulus grants, and approximately 50 more will be installed
throughout Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties before the end of the year.

While the initial round of stations was paid for by the federal government, President Barack Obama signaled Wednesday that federal spending was likely to enter into a long period of austerity, clouding the future of any program that relies on a government subsidy.

Yet electric vehicles advocates, including station manufacturer Coulomb Technologies, were hopeful that enough groundwork had been laid -- about 20,000 stations across the country -- to allow the industry to flourish.

"The private market will take it over. What we wanted to do with our grant funding was to make sure that communities like Santa Cruz and other local communities welcome the electric vehicles to get the ball rolling. We don't want people to be worried about charging so they don't buy the car in the first place," said Richard Lowenthal, founder and chief technical officer at Coulomb. "We see that as a way to get the ball rolling, so that you know if you buy an EV you won't be stuck. ... It is a very sustainable business, but we like the kick-start."

The eight stations will be in Aptos, Scotts Valley, Santa Cruz and Capitola. While the electricity initially is being provided for free, the machines have the ability to take credit cards or accept payment by phone.

A bevy of electric cars have come onto the market in recent years, and new releases are highly anticipated. Owners typically charge them overnight at home, with a full charge taking three to four hours.

The stations should extend the limited range of electric vehicles, which, along with price, has been an obstacle to broader acceptance. Some high-tech employers have even started installing the stations at work.

"We really are at a tipping point, I think, in terms of adoption of these vehicles, and widespread adoption of these vehicles," said Jay Friedland, legislative director of Plug In America.
Coulomb Technologies
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