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USA: Chevy Volt Gets a Solar Boost at New Electric Car Charging Stations

by Timothy Hurst

If electric vehicles are ever going to grab more than a sliver of the U.S. auto market, there needs to be a robust infrastructure of EV charging stations. At least that is the common wisdom. But public charging stations also act as infrastructural billboards; market signals to the consumer that public charging is simple and readily available. In other words, the benefits of new electric car charging stations are not only the tangible kind – that they provide a place where people can charge their car’s batteries and (perhaps) spend money at the business associated with the charger – the benefits also come in more abstract forms – they help erect the psychological infrastructure many consumers need to be in place before they jump into EV ownership.

But a third dimension, one that has both tangible and intangible properties, sees the addition of new EV charging stations can as powerful marketing tools, especially when the charging stations being installed have all the familiarity of the traditional gas station but include the unmistakable connection to clean energy roots via the solar panels they are attached to.

Beginning last week with stations at Serra Automotive in Grand Blanc, Michigan and American Chevrolet in Modesto, California, GM is outfitting at least 26 dealerships with solar canopy arrays to charge and display the plug-in Chevy Volt in its clean energy habitat. Each installation will allow the simultaneous charging of 6, 12,18 or 24 vehicles, depending on how many solar canopies the dealer chooses to install.

“The question isn’t whether to install a solar canopy, it’s where and how many,” said Joe Serra, president of Serra Automotive in Grand Blanc, Michigan.

The solar canopy projects are being installed by Michigan-based Sunlogics, a global developer and operator of large-scale solar power projects that just received $7.5 million in investment capital from GM Ventures, the $100-million venture capital arm of GM. The addition of Sunlogics brings the number of companies to six in the GM Ventures portfolio, all of which are developing technologies in the sustainable mobility sector.

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