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NYC Opens First Electric Car Charging Station

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Car charging station (credit: CBS file)

Car charging station (credit: CBS file)

NEW YORK (CBS) ― It was a first in New York City’s quest to go green.

The Big Apple opened its first car charging station for electric vehicles on Wednesday.

The station is located at a parking facility on Manhattan’s West Side. More than 100 stations will open around the city by next September.

The city’s electric fleet is currently 10, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city will buy 40 more clean-energy cars for use by the parks and transportation departments.

Bloomberg, joined by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, demonstrated how to use the public car charging station.

“The electric vehicle is not just a pipe dream or a scene from the Jetsons,” Bloomberg said. “It is here and it is here right now.”

Charging an electric car is similar to pumping gas. After tapping a special payment card on the front of the machine, simply insert a pump into the car.

Coulumb Technologies, based in Campbell, Calif., received $15 million of federal economic stimulus money to make the chargers.

Richard Lowenthal, the company’s CEO, said 4,600 chargers will be installed across the country by September 2011.

A car with a fully drained battery can be charged in less than four hours, Lowenthal said. The cost to charge a car would be determined by the company that maintains the station, he said. The first charging station in Manhattan’s far West side will be free for a month.

There are different kinds of electric cars. Some, like Nissan’s Leaf, are purely electric, using just a rechargeable battery for power. The Chevrolet Volt by General Motors also has a battery but includes a small gas-powered engine that creates electricity when the battery charge runs out after 40 miles. Other models are plug-in hybrids with engines that get power from both batteries and gas. But the common feature is that the vehicles can be recharged using a power cord and a plug.

Rebecca Lindland, an analyst with IHS automotive, said electric cars may not be good for everyone because they cannot be driven long distances.

“Some people are really uncomfortable with the idea that you’re only going to be able to go 100 miles round trip,” Lindland said. “The typical car has a 300-mile range. That’s what people are used to.”

Donovan said spending money to build electric cars will help create new jobs and allow the country to keep up with competitors outside the U.S.

He said stimulus funds are not just for supporting jobs in existing industries, “but also about catalyzing the new jobs in new industries that our nation needs to compete in the 21st century.”

The White House plans to promote its work to develop electric cars this week, dispatching administration officials across the nation to discuss advanced batteries and new vehicles powered by electricity.

President Barack Obama, who is pushing clean energy, has vowed to bring 1 million plug-in hybrid vehicles to U.S. highways by 2015, and his administration has set aside billions of stimulus dollars to bolster U.S. battery manufacturers.

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