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New MCC Electric Vehicle Charging Stations are the City’s First

Published: Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 17:01

Electric Charging

Ryan A. Ruiz

MCC’s three electric vehicle charging stations are the first of their kind to be installed in the city of Mesa.

Electric car owners now have a place to charge their cars in Mesa.

Green tech company ECOtality has installed three charging stations, the first in the city of Mesa, at Mesa Community College.

The new stations are part of the company's EV Project, which officially launched in October 2009 and will see the installation of charging stations in six states including California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Texas and Tennessee as well as in the District of Columbia, according to the project website.

The idea behind the project is to analyze data about those who drive electric vehicles, and then use that data to create an infrastructure for EV owners which allows them to easily charge their cars, said Tammy Tepper-Cunningham, a sales specialist at ECOtality.

The project began after ECOtality, a technology company focused on solving energy issues, was issued a grant of $99.8 million from the US Department of Energy. In June 2010, they received an additional $15 million grant from the department, according to their website.

MCC first became interested in the project last spring when the school began receiving emails from the company offering to install charging stations for free, said Suzi Dodt, the environmental sustainability coordinator for MCC.

Working with MCC provided ECOtality a "great opportunity too work on a project with the community," Tepper-Cunningham said.

After meeting with representatives from ECOtality, school officials decided that the cost savings alone from setting it up now versus waiting to look into it in the future were enough to move forward with the project, Dodt said, adding, "It just made sense to do it now at no cost."

ECOtality created a cost limit for what it would cost the school to put in the station on their own. Once the plans were finalized for the number of spots and locations of the stations, ECOtality agreed to pay for the costs within that cost limit, Dodt said. The school was able to remain in that limit, so the school did not have to pay anything to have the stations installed.

The EV Project is a joint venture between private investors and the US Department of Energy, Tepper-Cunningham said. This setup allows the program to allocate a set budget at each location so as to make installation easier for site owners.

The stations, which were installed at the end of November, are located near the Rose Garden on campus partly because the garden has its own electrical lines and was therefore a most cost-effective location.

Dodt said school representatives also felt that MCC was overall a good location for charging stations because they are near a lot of attractions.

The stations at the school can take between two and three hours to produce a 50 percent charge, Dodt said. Drivers then can plug in their car and walk across the street to the restaurants or stores or they can remain on campus and go to the internet café and work.

Stations are equipped with Blink Network software. Each electric vehicle driver is assigned a Blink card, which Dodt said is used like a debit card at a gas station. The card then charges drivers for the electricity used.

 "They are using our electricity, but we are not paying for it," Dodt said.

 Blink users can download an app for their phone that shows a map of all of the charging stations in the area. While there are other locations in the Valley, the only stations in Mesa currently are on the MCC campus.

Currently there are only two electric vehicles on the market, the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan LEAF. Approximately 13 different carmakers have plans to release an electric car in the next few years, Dodt said. The hope is that each manufacturer will use a standard plug so that all of the cars can use the stations like those at MCC, she added.

The EV Project is also helping install home charging stations for qualified vehicle owners and rapid charging stations at other locations, according to the project website.

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