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Electric vehicle charging stations coming to Kent, rest of Puget Sound area

The 2011 Nissan Leaf, an electric vehicle, will make its debut before the end of the year in Kent and the Puget Sound area. Electric vehicle charging stations will be installed in the region to accommodate drivers of the new car. - COURTESY PHOTO, Nissan
The 2011 Nissan Leaf, an electric vehicle, will make its debut before the end of the year in Kent and the Puget Sound area. Electric vehicle charging stations will be installed in the region to accommodate drivers of the new car.
— image credit: COURTESY PHOTO, Nissan

Expect to see electric vehicle-charging stations popping up next year in Kent and throughout the central Puget Sound area and Olympia.

The stations are part of a public-private partnership backed by the federal government to create infrastructure to accommodate the 2011 Nissan Leaf and other new electric vehicles hitting the market later this year and over the next few years.

The Kent City Council passed a zoning code amendment ordinance Tuesday to allow electric-charging stations to be installed in commercial, industrial and residential areas of the city. The stations could be installed in parking lots or garages at businesses and in garages at homes.

"The city is very excited for the opportunity to place electric vehicle chargers in our city," said City Planner Erin George in a phone interview. "We hope to provide Kent residents and visitors to Kent the stations to help ensure consumer acceptance of electric vehicles."

The Legislature passed House Bill 1481 in 2009 that requires Kent and other cities to allow electric vehicle charging stations as a way to accelerate the development of infrastructure as well the use of electric vehicles.

The operators of Kent Station, the Great Wall Shopping Mall and the city-owned ShoWare Center recently met with city officials as well as officials from Phoenix-based ECOtality about possibly installing the stations. Fred Meyer and Target have shown interest as well.

ECOtality is one of the partners in what's known as the EV Project, which is working with Nissan and local governments and businesses to install more than 1,200 charging stations in the central Puget Sound and Olympia areas.

Rich Feldman, ECOtality's Pacific Northwest regional manager for planning and business development, said the company looks at shopping malls as an ideal place for charging stations. A Nissan Leaf can travel 100 miles on one full charge.

"We want to put charging stations where people spend an hour or two shopping or going to the movies," Feldman said in a phone interview. "Our big focus is on urban centers."

ECOtality plans to install 1,200 Blink Level 2 charging stations and 45 fast-charge stations in the central Puget Sound and Olympia areas. A Level 2 charging station provides 240 volts and can fully charge a Nissan Leaf in eight hours or give it enough juice to go 11 to 22 miles in one hour. The fast chargers use 480 volts and can give an electric vehicle 20 to 30 miles in 10 minutes and a full charge in a little more than 30 minutes.

The fast chargers are scheduled to be installed along the Interstate 5, I-405 and I-90 corridors, Feldman said.

ECOtality received a grant of $115 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to help install over the next three years nearly 15,000 charging stations in 16 cities in six states (Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona, Tennessee and Texas) and the District of Columbia.

Feldman said the 1,200 stations in the Puget Sound area should be in place by mid-2011. The exact location of the stations has yet to be determined.

"We want people to feel comfortable driving the vehicles so that they can be assured they can find a charging station," Feldman said.

The company also is working with Nissan to install 900 stations at the homes of Leaf owners.

The cost to use a public charging station remains to be determined. ECOtality is working to come up with a card where people could pick from an option of subscription services.

"Or a retailer might want to offer free charging," Feldman said.

For more information about the EV Project, go to

www.theevproject.com.

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