Charleston garages to be haven for electric cars
December 23, 2010
Charleston soon will play a small role in creating the infrastructure for all-electric vehicles by allowing the nonprofit group Plug In Carolina to install at least six charging stations in city parking garages and lots.
Supporters of the plan don't expect that the charging stations will get much use at first, maybe five or six visits a month, because few people will own all-electric cars in 2011. The number of such cars on the road is expected to grow quickly, however.
Electric cars have limited ranges and are primarily used for local commutes, but the availability of charging stations in a network of South Carolina cities could improve the usefulness of such vehicles.
The initiative, costing about $52,000 in Charleston, is being funded with federal "clean cities" grant money awarded through the South Carolina Energy Office.
Once the charging stations are installed, the city will cover the cost of any electricity used by people to recharge their vehicles -- a fact that led to some grumbling on City Council, which approved the plan Tuesday night.
Councilman Aubry Alexander called the idea of providing free electricity for vehicle recharging "green welfare," and he questioned why private businesses couldn't provide such a service and charge people to use it. He was the only council member who voted against the plan, though others asked some pointed questions.
"We're giving away a public asset, essentially," Alexander said. "We increased the franchise fee on electricity users in the city, and now we're going to give away electricity?"
The city estimated that it should cost less than $300 next year to provide the free power, and about $500 in the third year of the initiative as the number of electric vehicles grows. Officials noted that if the charging stations are in city parking garages, people would still have to pay to get in and out of the garage to access the chargers, offsetting any cost to the city.
"If it's $300 a year that's ... a tiny amount of money," Mayor Joe Riley said. "It's very good public policy, something the city should encourage if it has the opportunity."
Plug In Carolina received about $480,000 in federal grant funding and financial support from utility companies to install more than 80 charging stations in Columbia, Spartanburg, Greenville, Rock Hill, Union, Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, Blythewood and Charleston.
Jim Poch, founder of the nonprofit, describes himself as a conservative Republican who started Plug In Carolina partially because he "was fed up (with) our nation funding both sides of the war on terror" by consuming foreign oil.
He said the United States spends tens of billions of dollars each year subsidizing oil, so it makes little sense to criticize spending a small amount to support electric vehicles.
"This is pro-economy, pro-national-security, and by the way, it's great for our environment," Poch told City Council members.
(taken from ThePostandCourier.com