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Suburban EV charging stations give range past Route 128

Posted by Joe Allen-Black  March 13, 2012 02:55 PM

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(Keith Barry for The Boston Globe). Click photo for larger version.

A Nissan Leaf plugs into one of two public charging stations at the Hanover Mall.

HANOVER—Two new public electric vehicle charging stations that just opened at a shopping mall in Hanover might not be drawing crowds yet, but state officials hope they'll be the first of many spots where electric car owners will plug in across Massachusetts suburbs.

The charging stations at the Hanover Mall on Route 53, which opened to the public last month, are part of an ambitious public-private partnership to provide a statewide charging infrastructure with at least one station every 60 miles. Among other cities and towns slated to get charging stations this year are Chelmsford, Kingston, Newton, Salem, and New Bedford.

"The vehicles are coming, but this is part of the pilot," said Stephen Russell, the program director for alternative transportation and clean cities at the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources.

Altogether, there should be about 150 more stations across the state by the end of the year, distributed across commercial centers, town-owned properties and MBTA and Massport parking lots. Many are in Boston's suburbs, though some are located as far west as Lenox and Greenfield. National Grid is opening an additional 30 stations across the state, including ones at some Chili's and 99 restaurants.

Given its distance from an urban center, a suburb like Hanover might seem like an odd place to put a charging station. But managers at the mall, located about halfway between Boston and Cape Cod, say that the charging station will attract both locals and city-dwelling EV owners who can do some shopping while waiting for their cars to be ready.

"Charging a vehicle takes a little time," said Ed Callahan, the mall’s general manager. "Our hope, being a shopping mall, is that you can shop, you can eat, you get your hair cut, you can get your taxes done and you can take a Zumba class."

The 240-volt charging stations in Hanover — known as Level 2 stations — take eight hours to bring a car from empty to full, but can add about 10 miles to a car's range in an hour. In Hanover, charging while having lunch at the nearby Uno's could add those extra few miles necessary to make it from Hyannis to Boston.

Unlike the three charging stations in front of Boston’s City Hall -- which require an account with the charging station company and quarters for the meters -- the Hanover Mall is paying for electricity. National Grid chipped in the cost of installing the stations. The station itself (typically at least $1,500 each) was funded through a combination of funds from the US Department of Energy and Coulomb, the station manufacturer, plus some money from the state's 2007 settlement with power plant operator American Electric Power for pollution control violations.

As for the cars, "It's sort of that chicken and egg thing," said National Grid spokeswoman Christine Milligan. "The whole issue with selling more EVs is that people need to know there's places that they can charge them."

Keith Barry lives on the South Shore and contributes to Wired and Car and Driver. He can be reached at keith.barry@gmail.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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