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The EV Project is a massive contract awarded to ECOtality by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in August 2009 to install electric vehicle (EV) chargers throughout California and several other states. Although the DOE’s grant was for $99.8 million, there was an additional grant of $15 million to expand the project, and the total public and private investment brings the total cost to approximately $230 million. The EV Project covers both in-home chargers and public chargers. While the in-home charger deployment is going well, they are failing on the public charger deployment.

The EV Project is responsible for hundreds of in-home charger units, like mine, being installed thus far. They did an excellent job with my installation. I have an ECOtality “Blink” charger, which was installed in my garage through the EV Project, to charge my new Nissan LEAF electric car. The EV Project is a U.S. Department of Energy contract awarded to ECOtality (a public corporation). ECOtality acts a prime contractor and uses electrical subcontractors to install the chargers.

ECOtality has Roush manufacture a “Blink” branded charger for them. The residential in-home charger installations are occurring per plan and with a high degree of professionalism. My concern, however, is in regards to the EV Project public EV charger deployment. There has not been a single public EV charger installed by ECOtality during the 18 months they’ve had the EV Project contract. The EV Project was slated to have 15,000 public chargers installed by this summer.

Right now there are only a couple of dozen Nissan LEAFs on the road in San Diego. But that is about to change in a hurry. Nissan is quickly ramping up production and a shipment of 1600 LEAFs has just arrived at the port of LA. So, we could see hundreds of additional LEAFs, and other plug-in cars, being added to the roads in San Diego each month. Drivers are going to be upset given this charging infrastructure we were promised to be in place hasn’t even started.

To add to the confusion, the EV Project website actually indicates numerous public EV chargers being operational throughout San Diego County. But when you go to those locations, if there even is an EV charger present, it will be one installed a decade ago for the late 1990’s GM EV1 vehicles with the old style connector. These old EV chargers don’t use the current J1772 connector that the new EVs use. So they won’t work. Regardless, these old chargers were never part of the present EV Project and to claim them is being so is disingenuous.

Public charging for electric cars and plug-in hybrids are critical for their continued success. It’s upsetting the EV Project is failing to get the EV charger public infrastructure deployment started after a year and a half.

Michael Sabo lives in Escondido.

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