Frisco businesses ramp up to charge electric cars
Frisco is getting ready to accommodate electric vehicles with the arrival of six charging stations that can help EV drivers “fill up”.
Four of the new charging stations have been installed at the Cinemark Frisco Square movie theaters off Main Street and Dallas Parkway, and two more have been installed at a new McDonalds restaurant at 8888 Teel Parkway.
“It’s a natural for us to have the charging stations in our stores wherever possible,” said Jeff Phillips, owner of the McDonalds, who believes the recharge stations will draw EV drivers who want to recharge their batteries while they eat.
“The amount of electric cars out there today is not really great, but I think it will increase in the future,” Phillips said. “We just wanted to be another place where people can go to charge their cars.”
Two electric vehicles, the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan LEAF, are being sold in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area. A third, the MiEV by Mitsubishi, is entering the local market this year. Several other EVs — by Ford, Toyota and Honda — are headed to showrooms over the next two years.
The EV charging stations in Frisco are part of the Blink charging network created and installed by ECOtality, a company specializing in building the electric vehicle support system. The Blink network is, so far, the largest in the US, and offers three levels of chargers, including the mid-level pedestal chargers installed in Frisco.
These “Level 2″ chargers are commercial scale, and while they take several hours to fully charge an EV, they can “top off” a car in an hour or so, extending the range for vehicle, explained Dave Aasheim, the Texas manager for ECOtality North America, which is based in San Francisco.
Several businesses in the metroplex have asked to have chargers because they believe it will be good for business and help customers either choose their store or spend more time there, he said.
“If I know my car is being charged, if they don’t have exactly something I’m looking for…I’m not as quick to change locations. I’m likely to figure it out and stay a while longer because I know my car is being productive,” said Aasheim, who drives a Volt.
ECOtality’s initial charging stations, including those in Frisco, have been underwritten by the US Department of Energy as part of an effort to build the initial network to support electric vehicle travel. The program, known as the EV Project, is seeding electric networks in six pilot states, Texas, Tennessee, Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington.
The Volt and LEAF are partners in the project, which also provides free charging stations to some eligible early owners of electric vehicles.
The pilot project aims to put up 14,000 commercial and residential charging stations, enough to support an estimated 8,000 EVs and provide data about how people drive and charge their EVs, information that can help guide the expansion of the network across the US.
Many people consider EV vehicles to be an important response to rising gasoline prices and dependence on foreign oil. They’re also considered environmentally friendly because their tailpipe emissions are virtually zero (the Volt has a small backup gasoline generator to extend mileage). However, EVs are eco-friendly by degrees depending upon how the electric grid they rely upon is powered. In Texas, or almost any other state, the electric grid is at least half powered by coal-fired power plants, known for having the worst carbon emissions of any power source.
When electricity is generated by natural gas, wind or solar power, however, operating an electric vehicle becomes a much cleaner proposition.
The North Central Texas Council of Governments (NTCOG) supports EV networks as a way to reduce air pollution in the D/FW region.
The Frisco chargers join dozens going in around the D/FW region, in Plano, Garland, Irving and Dallas, at retail outlets, groceries and government buildings.
To learn more about electric vehicles and the ECOtality network, see the project’s education webpage.