Electric vehicle network planned to allow gas-free travel

Electric vehicle network planned to allow gas-free travel

October 29th, 2011 by Andy Johns in News

POLL: Would you ever buy an electric car?

CALHOUN, Ga. -- A regional electric car group plans a network of chargers that would run up Interstates 75 and 59 to allow gas-free travel from Atlanta, Birmingham and Chattanooga.

A coalition of Clean Cities groups in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina released details of a plan to link charging stations in the three states along interstate corridors during a Northwest Georgia Regional Commission meeting last week.

A station or stations along I-75 would allow Atlanta drivers to reach stations already developed in Chattanooga and other Tennessee locations, according to Don Francis, executive director of Clean Cities Atlanta.

"We have really one hole to plug" along I-75 in the network between Atlanta and several Tennessee cities.

Most electric cars, including the Nissan Leaf and forthcoming offerings from Ford and Mitsubishi, can travel between 75 and 100 miles on a single charge. That puts a trip from Atlanta to Chattanooga out of reach, but charging stations -- which can juice up a battery in 20 minutes -- would make the trip possible.

Francis said the group plans to explore the idea of placing charging stations at highway rest areas, including sites in Gordon County, Ga., and DeKalb County, Ala. Beyond that, they hope to partner with chain restaurants, entertainment venues, malls and other attractions to build more stations.

"You don't want to put this stuff in the wrong place," Francis said. "You want to put this where people say they are going to use it."

The effort, called the Southeast Regional EV Readiness Planning Program, secured a grant and contract to study the routes in September, and the group has one year to complete user surveys and finalize plans.

In addition to I-75 and I-59, the current design calls for stations along Interstate 95 from Brunswick, Ga., to Florence, S.C.; I-85 from Montgomery, Ala., to Greenville, S.C.; I-20 from Birmingham to Columbia, S.C.; and I-65 from Mobile to Huntsville, Ala., among others.

According to the report, the coalition's goal is to have 100,000 electric vehicles in the three states by 2015, making up 10 percent of President Barack Obama's stated goal of 1 million EVs. The report cites low electricity rates and strong tax incentives as positives for electric cars in the Deep South, but notes the region's low adoption rate for hybrid and electric vehicles so far.

Whitfield County Commission Chairman Mike Babb said the regional commission meeting was the first he had heard of the plan, but he doesn't want Whitfield County to be left out.

"I would hope we'd have one," he said.

Francis said the stations, which cost about $5,000 each, could be paid for with 50-50 grants from the U.S. Department of Energy. For the matching portions, the group plans to approach partners in the public and private sector.

"States can't afford to do this on their own," he said.

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