Electric car-charging stations in city budget

Advantage Nissan could start selling the LEAF, the first, mass-produced, 100 percent electric car, as early as January, and Port Orchard has budgeted to install two electric car charging stations shortly thereafter.

Pre-sales on the LEAF have been strong so far.

On April 20, Nissan opened pre-sales, asking potential customers to send $90 to reserve a car, and the company received 20,000 pre-sale reservations three months ahead of schedule. About 65 reservations came from the area near Advantage Nissan in Bremerton.

“I had the opportunity to drive it a couple of times,” said Chuck Capps, who helps run the family-owned Advantage Nissan, “and it absolutely blew my expectations out of the water.

“This car is a real car,” he said. “It’s not a go-cart on steroids.”

However, he conceded the vehicle is not for everyone.

“It’s not necessarily to replace all your gas motors in the family,” he said. “It’s for the commuter.”

And commuters can save some money in refueling costs by driving the LEAF, whose manufacturers claim it runs as efficiently as a car that gets 100 miles per gallon.

Recharging the car costs about $2.30 to $3, and it can go about 100 miles before needing to be recharged.

“Something like 74 percent of the nation drives under 80 miles per day,” said Capps.

So, for commuters, running the battery down shouldn’t be a huge issue.

Nissan recommends that LEAF owners charge their car every night like a cell phone, since it takes about seven hours to fully charge the car’s battery from typical home outlets.

It will take about half an hour to charge the car at the charging stations Port Orchard plans to install.

Port Orchard’s recharging stations will cost significantly more than a home charging station as well.

A home charging station costs between $1,000 and $2,000.

But the city has budgeted $20,000 to cover the costs associated with providing new electric service to the location.

Mark Dorsey, Port Orchard’s public works director is currently working with Puget Sound Energy to figure out what it will take to get power out to the proposed site.

ECOtality, an engineering corporation working with the federal government to reduce petroleum consumption, signed an informal agreement to cover the costs of the actual charging stations and their installation.

And ECOtality doesn’t automatically agree to help every city or group that would like to work with them.

“ECOtality’s process for evaluating potential locations for electric vehicle supply equipment ... seeks to maximize rich data collection, as well as provide a truly custom, highly functional EV infrastructure.”

A parking lot near the waterfront, on the corner of Frederick Avenue and Sidney Parkway fit the bill.

But not all of Port Orchard’s leaders have gotten on board with the idea.

“I like the idea of alternative energy, but in this time of economic hardship I cannot in good conscience support the expenditure of $20,000 of city funds for electric car-charging stations,” said City Councilman Fred Chang in an e-mail. “It is a luxury that has little benefit for residents at this time. This money could be better allocated, for example, towards installing solar panels on City Hall and/or the library to reduce energy costs for those buildings. Or to support a study to provide sewer service to develop the Sidney/Sedgwick area.”

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