Colorado’s first high-speed electric vehicle charging station opens

Posted on: 1:26 pm, August 12, 2013, by , updated on: 05:13pm, August 12, 2013

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FORT COLLINS, Colo. — The first high-speed charging station for electric vehicles will open Monday in Fort Collins.

City officials will open what’s called a Level 3 charger for public use at 3 p.m. It is one of two chargers located at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery on Mason Court.

The Level 3 charger “uses the newest advanced technology and can charge an EV in minutes — instead of hours,” said Lisa Gardner of Fort Collins Utilities in a news release.

Nissan donated the $50,000 charger, which FCU Policy and Project Manager Tom Vosburg called a “game changer.”

Another less powerful Level 2 charger is also available at the museum station.  There are two Level 2 chargers also installed at the Civic Center Parking Structure on Mason Street.

Level 2 chargers use a 240-volt circuit (similar to what is used for central air conditioners or clothes dryers). Customers pay $1 per charging hour.

According to PlugInAmerica.org, Nissan’s all electric Leaf would receive a full charge at that rate in about eight hours.

The Level 3 charger is faster and uses a 480-volt high-power service but is only available for cars equipped to handle it. The cost is $3 per charging session, which typically takes 20 to 30 minutes.

Vosburg said the Level 3 charger is “becoming the gas pump for electric vehicles.”

He said the longer charge time means owners can multitask while refueling. For example, Vosburg said that while testing the new Level 3 charger, workers were able to plug in a vehicle, go across the street to a coffee shop, order a latte, check email and by the time they went back to the car, it was charged.

Both stations are located in areas of town with shops and “things to do,” Vosburg said.

Fort Collins hopes to become leader in electric vehicles

The city announced in late February it had partnered with Colorado State University, Drive Electric Northern Colorado and several other groups to make northern Colorado a leader in electric vehicles, Gardner said.  The charging stations are part of that strategy.

Officials hope to develop an infrastructure of charging stations to reassure consumers that electric vehicles have the same range capability as their gas powered counterparts.

“One thing that EV drivers have found is that they have really decent range,” Vosburg said.

Typically electric cars are charged overnight at the owner’s home and that charge is enough to last an entire days worth of driving.

The recharging stations will help give locals some reassurance and also attract owners from outside the city including Boulder and Denver.

Automakers slash prices to encourage consumers

Automakers have battled for buyers in the electric vehicle market in recent months as consumers continue to be skeptical about their use.

GM has already offered steep rebates on the 2012 and 2013 editions of the Volt. In similar fashion, Nissan and Honda have offered aggressive discounts on their Leaf and Fit EV electric cars.

Even with the built-in tax breaks for eligible buyers, electric vehicles have struggled to gain market share. No more than a few thousand Volts are sold each month in the U.S., a tiny fraction of overall auto sales.

According to Kelly Blue Book, GM has sold only 11,643 Volts so far this year. In 2012, GM sold 23,461 of the cars.

Nissan’s Leaf, which had consistently trailed the Volt in U.S. sales until March this year, has since pulled ahead thanks to the introduction of a $199 a month lease and increased production at its plant in Tennessee. Leaf sales totaled 11,703 through July, according to tracker Autodata.

Limited range is one of the most common consumer complaints when it comes to electric cars. The Volt is a plug-in model that can go about 40 miles on a charge, but also has a gasoline engine to provide power for longer drives.

CNN contributed to this report.