November 11, 2010

Electric cars will soon be able to plug in at VUMC

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This is an example of the type of electric car charging station that will be installed at several locations at VUMC by early next year. (courtesy of ECOtality)

Electric cars will soon be able to plug in at VUMC

Electric vehicle charging stations will be installed at Vanderbilt University Medical Center as part of the EV Project, the largest deployment of electric vehicle charging infrastructure in history.

VUMC has been chosen to participate in the pilot rollout that will install more than 15,000 charging stations by June, 2011, in 16 cities in six states and Washington, D.C.

As manager of the EV Project, ECOtality is overseeing the $230 million public-private initiative, which is funded with a $114.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“ECOtality is pleased to welcome Vanderbilt University Medical Center as a participant in the EV Project,” said Jonathan Read, CEO of ECOtality.

“In order to make EVs (electric vehicles) a reality, people need to be able to charge in places that are convenient to them, including public locations and employment centers. VUMC is setting a great example on both fronts by installing ECOtality's Blink charging stations at their parking facility for use by staff and visitors.”

VUMC will receive six to 10 of ECOtality's Blink EV charging stations free of charge to be used in public parking areas. The majority will be Blink Level 2 commercial charging stations, which use 240 volts and take four to six hours to charge a vehicle. VUMC will also receive one or two Blink DC fast chargers, which use 480 volts and can charge a vehicle in under 30 minutes.

ECOtality also offers the opportunity to purchase additional chargers for private parking areas. VUMC plans to install several charging stations in staff parking areas, and will add more as needed.

Each station will also have a LAN line so that ECOtality can collect and analyze data on charging station use. The LAN connection will also provide users the location of charging stations and charge status updates through the Blink Network smartphone application.

“Being one of the first participants in an initiative like this is always a good place to be because we can help with the evolution,” said Gary Streaty, director of Medical Center Parking and Transportation Services. “People look to Vanderbilt for that kind of leadership and we want to be pioneers in the push for cleaner air.”

The estimated installation date for the charging stations is February 2011, and the timing coincides with the release of two EVs — the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF.

Streaty said he has already received calls from VUMC staff who are on the waiting list for an EV and want to know if charging will be available on campus.

“We're not sure how long it will be before this technology takes off,” Streaty said, “but as one of the largest employers in Tennessee and with more than 400,000 cars valet parked each year and 1.2 million patient visits, we know there will be a need to charge electric vehicles.”

Streaty stressed that this is a pilot project and there will be many issues to resolve. Current unknowns include the cost to use the charging stations, whether a special permit will be required for staff, the logistics of moving a vehicle once it is fully charged to allow others to use the station, and where the best locations for the stations will be.

ECOtality ultimately plans to have 5 million charging stations across America by 2013.

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