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Plug It In

A new research project is seeking the best places for electric cars to charge.

Some cars just need a place to recharge after a day of zipping around here and there. 

That’s the thrust of Connecticut Light & Power and its parent company Northeast Utilities' “Plug My Ride” grass-roots initiative. The two companies recently announced a research project that involves about 30 stations to support new plug-in electric vehicles, or "EVs." The initiative is the largest of its kind in New England, according to CL&P.

"We've worked hard to make Connecticut an early market for electric vehicles, so we're excited to launch New England's first comprehensive, hands-on EV study," Jeff Butler, CL&P's president and chief operating officer, said in a press release. "By gathering information from municipal and business customers, we can gain tangible experience to help guide future decisions about our infrastructure, our policies and how we will ultimately serve all of our customers as EVs become more common."

NU will provide the charging equipment. CL&P will work with designated municipal and business customers to complete installations by year-end. So far, in Stamford and the are among the 20 municipalities and businesses that will in the research project.

The Westport train station plans on installing 10 charging stations that could charge 20 cars simultaneously. However, the town hasn't decided exactly where to put the chargers.

"We don't have them installed yet, but we're committed to doing it," Westport First Selectman Gordon Joseloff said.

So after much ado about the end of the electric car, it appears reports of its death were greatly exaggerated.  Still, it’s in a developmental stage, said Ridgefield resident John Papa.

“Right now there is still a general lack of understanding about it,” Papa said. “It sort of, 'Hey that sounds like a science experiment.’ ”

Because of that, Papa said the fuss about installing charging stations is somewhat overblown. He said educating and acclimating people about EVs would better serve the state. Papa would like more chargers in homes and workplaces than public places.

“There are millions and millions of electric outlets out there already,” Papa said.

The cars can plug into any 120-volt electric outlet. EV owners buy electric vehicle service equipment EVSE charging stations to plug into a 240-volt outlet.

The has delivered between seven and eight Chevy Volts and would sell more if it could get them, according to the sales staff.

“There’s a lot of interest in the car, the problem is we can’t get enough of them,” said Scott Nickle, a salesman at the dealership. “We’ve got wicked high demand and will have more when gas reaches $6 a gallon this summer.”

The cars aren’t inexpensive. A 2011 Volt, a plug-in hybrid has a $41,000 starting price. However, a $7,500 federal tax credit brings it down to $33,500. The all-electric Nissan Leaf comes in at $26,130 after a $7,500 federal tax credit.

That price causes people to shy away from buying the cars, Papa said.

However, the number of electric cars on the road isn’t a sign of success or failure. If there are only 20 electric cars out there, that’s 20 electric cars that weren’t there before, Papa said.

Electric cars produce less carbon dioxide and other pollutants than drive on gasoline. Lastly, electricity is made in the United States by driving EVs can reduce fossil fuel consumption and help the nation divorce itself from foreign energy sources.

Moving away from Mid-East dependence on oil would be a good thing, said state Attorney General George Jepsen. He recently told Patch that he wants to see a more concerted effort regarding an energy policy.

"The real tragedy is we've known since 1973 that we need to do this," Jepsen said. "Despite the existence of technologies there has been an abject failure from Congress to put policies into place."

But it will likely be the rising cost of gas that pushes people to electric vehicles rather than legislation, Nickle said.

According to fueleconomy.gov, a 2011 smart car coupe averages about 37 miles per kilowatt hour of highway driving. It costs about $1 to charge a plug-in hybrid and $2 to $4 for all-electric.

But in the end don’t expect to zoom around like The Jetsons.

“After the initial excitement wears off it’s still a car. It’s getting you from Point A to Point B,” Papa said. “People make it out that you’re getting into a rocket ship.”

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