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Charging stations for electric cars get a power boost

Hoping to spur the purchase and use of new electric vehicles, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District is awarding $3.9 million to four California-based companies to boost installation of private and public charging stations around the region.

With Nissan rolling out the all-electric Leaf, Chevrolet marketing the plug-in hybrid Volt and an electric Ford Focus headed to market later this year, the nine-county agency plans to fund 30 public fast-charge systems to extend the range of those and other electric vehicles, district representatives said.

It also plans to offer $700 rebates to the first 2,750 consumers who come on board to help fund personal residential charging equipment to new electric car owners.

The aim, district spokesman Aaron Richardson said, is to “get the infrastructure built as quickly as we can so that when the vehicles roll out they're convenient and easy to use so we can make some significant inroads against vehicle pollution.”

The air quality district includes San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, southwestern Solano and southern Sonoma counties.

In Sonoma County it includes Windsor, Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Petaluma and Sebastopol, as well unincorporated west county about as far out as Occidental.

The project, announced Wednesday, is paid for through clean air transportation monies funded by a surcharge on vehicle registrations, Richardson said.

The district also spent $1.3 million last fall to fund public charging stations that are expected along area roadways later this year.

More than $3 million of the new funding would be used to provide rebates for residential charging stations to support consumer purchases of electrical vehicles throughout the district, beginning in two or three months, Richardson said.

The funds will be divided between San Francisco-based ECOtality Inc. ($2.2 million), Monrovia-based AeroVironment ($350,000), Campbell-based Coulomb Technology ($350,000) and Auburn-based Clipper Creek ($175,000) to subsidize installation of the residential stations, which usually cost a couple thousand dollars, depending on what retrofitting might be required, Richardson said.

The project also includes nearly $765,000 for ECOtality and AeroVironment for 30 (20 and 10 respectively) strategically located fast-charge stations able to fully charge an electric car in under 30 minutes.

ECOtality also will manage the project.

Planning for deployment of the fast chargers is still under way, and it's unclear how many, if any, would be located in the North Bay Area.

But the intent is to have them placed efficiently along the main travel corridors linking California with the Pacific Northwest, the district said.

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