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USA: Portland company offers area’s first solar car-charging station

PORTLAND — At first glance, the slender, blue box lodged in the pavement at Phil Coupe’s Presumpscot Street office could be taken for an air pump, with its long, slithering hose.

But its purpose is not so mundane: Coupe hopes that this addition to the business he co-founded will do nothing short than spark a sea change in local transportation.

The contraption is a charging station for electric vehicles, and it is the only such station in the area to be completely solar powered (College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor installed a solar-powered car charger on a farm the school owns at the end of 2011).

Coupe and his company, ReVision Energy, installed their charging station in late June, and use it to charge a company-owned Chevrolet Volt, an electric-powered car that gets 40 miles on a full electric charge and will go few hundred more using a gas generator to power the vehicle’s electric drive.

This month, ReVision will open up charging station to the general public, offering a free charge to anyone who drives up in a vehicle that plugs in.

Maine currently ranks 43rd in the nation in number of charging stations, but as many as 2,300 drivers could choose electric vehicles within the next three years, Environment Maine said Tuesday.

The numbers are small, but they could be the start of a trend towards alternative-energy vehicles.

“I’m trying to foment a transportation revolution in Maine from gas-powered to solar-powered,” Coupe said. While he spoke he plugged in a car, the charger made a solid mechanical thunk as electricity began coursing through it, and the vehicle beeped to signal it had connected to the flow.

No doubt, Coupe is also trying to foment new business for his decade-old company, which specializes in installing solar water-heating and electricity systems, like one they built for Coffee By Design on Washington Avenue earlier this year.

Reduced carbon emissions aside, he said solar power increasingly makes sense for those who willing to make the investment.

With no traditional fuel resources of its own, Maine has to import fossil fuels at high cost, he said – in 2007, when the Greater Portland Council of Governments released its energy use report, Cumberland County alone spent $1.3 billion on energy. Throughout the state, roughly half of energy costs are associated with transportation.
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