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Houston Plans $10M EV-Charging Network

Novemer 18, 2010

Chuck Squatriglia

Houston, a city with deep ties to the petroleum industry, is embracing an electric future by rolling out a $10 million EV charging network that could put everyone within five miles of a charging station.

The privately funded system, dubbed evGo, being developed by NRG Energy will provide home-charging equipment and public charging stations to subscribers throughout Harris County, Texas. Subscribers will pay as little as $49 for unlimited access and the ability to "fill up" in as little as 30 minutes.

The announcement comes as automakers, led by General Motors and Nissan, start bringing cars with cords to market. One of the biggest challenges to the mass adoption of electric vehicles is their relatively limited range and the question of where we'll charge them when we aren't home.

NRG, the second-largest power generator in Texas, joins startups like Coulomb Technologies and Ecotality in answering that riddle by selling access to a charging network. The goal, said CEO David Crane, is to "make the electric vehicle more convenient and practical to own."

"One of the huge advantages the electric vehicle has over other alternative energy vehicles, such as hydrogen or compressed natural gas, is that the infrastructure for electric-car fueling already exists." he said. "It's called the home electrical system. The service station of the future is your garage and all we need to do to extend that to the transportation system is the last three feet of extension cord in your garage. We're here to get after it."

Subscribers will pay a flat fee of $49 to $89 a month for unlimited access and all the juice they need. The fee, which would be added to the customer's monthly utility bill, includes a 220-volt "Level 2 home-charging station with a dedicated smart meter. Such a station, which uses the same voltage as a dryer, can charge a typical EV in six to eight hours. NRG expects customers will charge primarily at home, but they will can plug in at any public station at any time.

NRG plans to install between 50 and 150 public charging stations throughout the Houston metropolitan area by the end of 2011. They will be located in shopping centers, supermarkets and business districts along the city's vast web of freeways. They'll also be available in some apartment complexes, condo communities and the like.

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