Company wants to set up car-charging stations in Grapevine

GRAPEVINE -- Drivers of electric vehicles may soon have more ways to recharge while shopping or eating downtown.

David Aasheim, area manager for ECOtality's Texas office in Dallas, is asking the City Council to allow two charging stations in the downtown area: at the city parking lot under construction at Worth and Jenkins streets and at the Grapevine Depot parking lot.

As part of a pilot program lasting until June 2013, the stations would be put up at no cost to the city, and, initially, plugging in would be free, Aasheim said. However, he said, electricity would cost about $1 per hour, starting this spring. That would be the equivalent of about $1.50 per gallon of gasoline, he said.

Grapevine has a station with two chargers at the parking lot of The Original Pancake House on William D. Tate Avenue. It is one of 38 stations in the Metroplex, Aasheim said.

He estimated that the area has about 500 all-electric or electric/gasoline hybrid vehicles, either Nissan Leafs or Chevrolet Volts. Other electric vehicles are expected to come on the market this year.

Mayor William D. Tate called electric vehicles "a great leap forward," adding that "we need to get away from burning fossil fuel in the Metroplex to improve the air quality."

In 2009, San Francisco-based ECOtality received a $99.8 million grant from the U.S. Energy Department to provide charging stations to the public. An additional $15 million was awarded in 2010.

Aasheim said his company's goal for the three-year program is to establish 14,650 "level 2" chargers in 18 major cities nationwide. Other companies were also awarded federal stimulus funds to set up charging stations.

Other companies are also setting up stations in the Metroplex. Last year, TXU Energy, Reliant Energy and Green Mountain Energy announced plans for about 70 stations, plus plans to install some at the University of Texas at Arlington.

ECOtality's Blink charging system has a touch screen and a magnetic card reader. A cord plugs into the car, and a Blink subscription card or a credit/debit card will activate the machine.

"It is safe," Aasheim said. "There are no issues with rain or standing in a puddle. The machines are UL listed."

Aasheim said an hour's charge will allow a car to go about 10 miles.

"We are looking for places where people will leave their vehicle for an hour to three hours," he said, citing Rangers Ballpark in Arlington as an example. "A lot of restaurants are coming on board."

Public Works Director Stan Laster said he will bring ECOtality's proposal to the council next month for a formal vote.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.