Electric Vehicles

County May Add 1,000 EVs to Its Fleet

March 26, 2009

As part of a two-year Bay Area market test of a longer-range vehicle, local governments in Sonoma County, Calif. are talking with Nissan Motor Co. about receiving 1,000 all-electric cars as early as 2010. However, EV infrastructure for businesses and the public could start appearing around the county this year.

The county of Sonoma has applied for up to $3 million in state and U.S. Energy Department grants to install charging stations and convert existing fuel-electric hybrid vehicles to plug-in hybrids, according to a spokeswoman for the Sonoma County Water Agency, a key player in the electric-car effort. The cost required to convert them is approximately $11,000.

All the governments in the county except one have expressed interest in acquiring a total of 150 electric cars from Nissan, according to the water agency spokeswoman. In addition to chargers potentially supplied with each vehicle, the goal is to obtain funding for each city to have at least one public station.

County officials are talking to large organizations such as Kaiser Permanente, Agilent Technologies, Santa Rosa Junior College, and Sonoma State University about integrating electric cars into their fleets and installing charging stations.

Some grocery stores that cater to consumers interested in natural foods have expressed interest in having charging stations installed, according to the spokeswoman. The idea is that shoppers could be able to top off their batteries while they shop.

Meanwhile, improvements in charger and battery technology is in the works. Nissan may soon have a new generation of batteries that could be charged to 80 percent capacity in as few as 10 minutes, with about five hours potentially needed in trickle-charge mode to fill it completely.

One public charger the county is considering is the Smartlet computer-networked stations made by Campbell-based Coulomb Technologies. The units cost $2,500 each, but the total cost can go up to $9,000, depending on how much work must go into extending wiring to the charger.  

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