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USA: Savannah garage offers first electric car charging stations

The sleek black hatchback glides silently into a parking slot at the Whitaker Street garage.

Charles Davis has just driven the 18 miles from his Effingham County home without using any gasoline, and thanks to three new electric charging stations the city has installed at the garage, Davis will get back home fossil-fuel free, too.

“Now I can top it off (with electricity) at the Whitaker Street garage and make it all the way home without topping it off with gas,” he said. “If I lived in Savannah, I wouldn’t even need a gas engine.”

Davis, president of The Earth Comfort Co., is confident the city’s decision to add the stations is part of a larger, unstoppable move toward electric cars.

A year ago, when he bought his Chevrolet Volt, he went all the way to Houston to get it.

Three months ago, when Richard Claar decided a Volt was for him, he went to Vaden Chevrolet on Abercorn.

“I think in five years we’ll see more and more of these,” Claar said. “It’s perfect. I haven’t bought a drop of gas since.”

The Volt can drive 44 miles on a single charge, but it has a back-up gas generator that charges the battery when it’s low. The energy from braking also feeds into the battery. Claar says with one tank of gas and a full charge, he can get 400 miles.

The city’s Whitaker charging stations are the first publicly available stations in Chatham County, and, at least while electric cars are owned by the few, the city isn’t asking drivers to pay for the plug-in. Some electric car drivers have been plugging into outlets at the garage anyway, said Sean Brandon, the city’s director of Mobility and Parking Services, but it also would be more costly to connect a payment device at this point.

The city paid $4,700 for the three stations and is looking at a few options for requiring payment down the road.

“It’s part of the experiment,” Brandon said. “It’s an opportunity to try it out, see what works and be ready should demand increase.”

With gas prices jumping dramatically to almost $4 a gallon as a national average earlier in the year, electric cars such as the Volt and the Nissan Leaf are getting a second consideration from car buyers, which helped push first-quarter sales for hybrids and electrics to a combined 117,182, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.

Consumers bought a record 52,000 gas-electric hybrids and all-electric cars in March, according to the Associated Press on Monday, up from 34,000 during the same month last year.


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