By Joshua H. Silavent - Staff Writer
December 4, 2012 - Though the growing popularity of Chevrolet’s Volt and plug-in versions of Toyota’s Prius promises an increase in production of cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles, the hybrid-electric car market remains stuck in a catch-22: without a robust infrastructure of conveniently located re-charging stations, Americans remain hesitant to invest in these kinds of cars; yet without more sales of hybrid cars, infrastructure investment will continue to lag.
The City of Long Beach is hoping to do its part in changing this dynamic. In mid-November, the city council approved a no-cost contract with the clean technology firm ECOtality for the installation of hybrid and electric vehicle charging stations at city-owned parking lots and facilities.
“We are making it easier for residents and visitors to operate alternative fuel vehicles, and improving air quality,” Mayor Bob Foster said in a statement.
About 12 sites throughout the city have been identified for the re-charging stations – though more could be added depending on demand – including the Aquarium of the Pacific, the Long Beach Convention Center, El Dorado Regional Park Nature Center, Admiral Kidd Park, Long Beach Airport and a Long Beach Boulevard parking lot.
“The City of Long Beach has a long and storied history in sustainable transportation,” Scott Watkins, ECOtality spokesperson, told the Business Journal in an e-mail. “By installing Blink charging stations at 12 city-owned locations, Long Beach has once again seized the opportunity to be a leader in the broader national network that is paving the way for a cleaner transportation future.”
ECOtality will install and maintain all stations, which are expected to be operational in early 2013. The charging stations will provide Level 2, 240-volt chargers, as well as DC Fast Chargers, and users will be able to find locations via a cell phone application.
ECOtality will pay the cost of electricity at the re-charging stations and users will pay a fee directly to the company. At the end of the contract, which is good for three years and includes a possible two-year extension, the charging stations will become the property of the City of Long Beach. The city can then continue to operate the stations or have them removed at no cost.
“The installation of the proposed electric vehicle charging stations will make it easier for the citizens of Long Beach to operate alternative fuel vehicles,” Michael Conway, director of public works, wrote in a city staff report. “This will encourage more rapid adoption of electric vehicles and, over time, could have a positive impact on greenhouse gas emissions and air quality.”