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Ashland approves charging stations for electric cars at two spots in city

Two electric car charging units will be installed at public parking spaces in Ashland, the City Council decided Tuesday.

An agreement signed with transportation development firm ECOtality allows the chargers to be installed in the lower level of the Hargadine Street parking garage and the public parking lot on the corner of Pioneer Street and Lithia Way.

The date for installing the chargers is undetermined, but hinges on ECOtality, which has installed the chargers within a few months after forming similar agreements in other U.S. cities. The San Francisco-based firm was awarded about $120 million in grant money by the U.S. Department of Energy to manage a three-year electric vehicle project, which started in October 2009.

An additional $110 million in donations was matched by various partners in the project, leaving $230 million for ECOtality's plan to install 14,000 chargers in six states and the District of Columbia by the end of 2012.

The agreement between ECOtality will end on April 30, 2013, at which point the chargers are scheduled to be removed if the city decides to give them up.

In the Hargadine Street parking garage, the company will install one wall-mount charging unit, and a pedestal-style charging unit will be placed in the Lithia Way parking lot. Both locations will be outfitted with level 2 chargers, which take about three to four hours to charge a drained car.

A pricing model is still being developed, but there may be no cost for charging a car initially, as is the case at some of the other ECOtality project sites.

Other stations charge $2 or $3 for a charge, and the firm has other subscription options available on its website, www.ecotality.com.

Most of the cost of installing the chargers will be paid by ECOtality. The company agreed to pay up to $2,250 for the installation of the pedestal charging unit, and up to $1,500 for the wall-mount unit.

If those costs are exceeded, the city will have to foot the bill. Additionally, the city will have to pay the cost of preparing each site with enough electricity to supply the chargers, said Adam Hanks, project manager for the city. That should be less than $2,000 total.

In January of this year, the City Council set aside up to $20,000 to install electric car charging stations on public property in Ashland.

If requested to do so, ECOtality will remove the charging units at any time during the project period at no cost to the city, and the city will not be responsible for servicing the equipment.

ECOtality will also pay for the electricity its chargers use, and split the revenue earned from them with the city.

The purpose of ECOtality's EV Project is to research and analyze the potential market for electric vehicles and charging stations in the U.S., according to the company's website.

Representatives from ECOtality did not return phone messages Wednesday.

Hanks said he doesn't think the city will ever be a primary provider of electric vehicle chargers, but that this project is a good short-term opportunity to serve a yearly influx of tourists who need the service, and a growing community demand.

He said there are a dozen registered electric vehicles in Ashland that can use the chargers.

Sam Wheeler is a reporter with the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.