Getting a (plug-in) charge in Madison

Thursday, June 25, 2009

From a story by Bob Hague on the Wisconsin Radio Network:

Drivers of plug in electric vehicles will soon be able to charge up on the streets of Wisconsin's capital city. Madison Gas and Electric is the first utility in the nation to make electric vehicle charging stations publicly available, with the purchase of six such stations to be installed around the city, according to MG&E's Steve Krause.

"One of the disadvantages (to electric vehicles) now is when you don't have a public charging station, is you have to either charge the car at your home, or you have to charge it a prearranged location," said Krause. "People that want to use electric cars all day long, either in town or even town to town, need a place to refuel that vehicle, and these charging stations will do that. We also have an additional bonus. All of the power that will be used to power these cars will come from renewable sources, and it will be primarily wind energy."

This is a demonstration project and for now, electric vehicle drivers won't be charged for the juice. MG&E's Don Peterson said the utility sees this as a business opportunity eventually, so they'll be collecting data. For example, how many electric vehicles are out there in the Madison area? "We really don't know how many electric vehicles are out there," said Peterson. "The estimates go to anywhere from 25 to 75 vehicles." That's a number that could be increasing fairly rapidly: Peterson noted that a Madison area car dealership is already doing a brisk trade, converting Toyota Prius hybrids into all electric plug ins.

"We see this is as a business opportunity, but right now each charging station, installed, is costing somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000," said Peterson. "We're exploring avenues for grants and additional research money, but right now this is an MG&E funded program."