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Lansner: Electric cars’ power shortage

I recently had the pleasure of driving an all-electric Nissan Leaf — yes, no gasoline backup — for a week. From the driving perspective, it offered a fun, peppy drive and many creature comforts.

Then came the angst: Do I have enough power left to get home?

While the Leaf offers plenty of electronic displays to offer some reassurance of your driving range, the sad truth is that there’s nowhere near the adequate number of charging stations around Southern California.

And while the 80-mile range acquired by a night plugged in at your home’s garage is plenty for running local errands, any longer trip requires a bit of planning. Curiously, my week of driving without gasoline — to be honest, my gas fast ended two days short of my goal – taught me that charging your electric vehicle on the road was actually a retailing adventure.

You may not know, but with most charging stations it takes at least a half hour or more to boost a car’s electric tank significantly. So the game becomes, “What shopping or dining can I do in the interim?”

With this inherent charging-station lure — a need for a comfy or busy place to kill time — it stumps me that more retail property owners haven’t taken to charging stations as, if nothing else, a marketing tool.

Sure there are a few chargers at major local shopping hubs — for example, at South Coast Plaza, Fashion Island and Irvine Spectrum. Elsewhere, it’s sporadic.

Now one entrepreneur and a local developer are looking to change that.

A charging station was just put in at the Residence Inn Marriott in San Juan Capistrano. In its first 30 days of operation, the hotel owner says that was the busiest charger in the nation.

The attraction of a charger to the electric car driver — not to mention the green nature of the investment — has made the hotel’s owner, Bob Olson of R.D. Olson Development in Irvine, a believer. He says every new hotel and retailing project he works on going forward will have a charging station.

“This is the future,” he says.


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