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Lil' Rhody to get electric car charging stations

The streets of College Hill may soon be populated with more environmentally friendly vehicles after the Northeast Electric Vehicle Network — a coalition of 10 states, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island — announced a plan last month to increase electric transportation by installing charging stations throughout the Northeast.

The initiative will be partially supported by a $1 million grant  from the federal government, according to Chris Coil, communications director at the Georgetown Climate Center, which is working with local government officials in energy, environment and transportation offices on the endeavor.

"At this point, it's an initiative of the states themselves, and our role is to help facilitate that," Coil said.

"People are very, very excited about the potential this work has," Coil said, adding that he hopes the project will create jobs while reducing oil dependency and greenhouse gas emisisons.

The state's small size makes it well-suited to electric vehicles, said Albert A. Dahlberg, director of state and community relations at Brown and founder of the Rhode Island chapter of Project Get Ready, a non-profit initiative that aims to prepare cities for the introduction of electric vehicles.

"There are some (electric) vehicles on the road right now in Rhode Island, but this is a long-term project," he said. The plan is slated to play out over 20 years.

"These vehicles right now are our only good alternative to the use of oil in the transportation sector," Dahlberg said. "I know it will take time for consumers to get used to electricity as the prime transportation energy source. I know it will take time to build the charging infrastructure. But the era of cheap oil is over, and as gasoline prices increase over time, electricity will be more and more attractive."

Two electric cars, the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf, will go on sale early next year at dealerships around the state, Dahlberg added. He predicted a small group of early adopters and said he hoped the initiative would take off from there.

The Leaf, an all-electric vehicle, is said to go about 80 miles on a single charge, he said. The Volt will reportedly go 40 miles on a charge but also has an internal combustion engine allowing gas to propel the vehicle while generating electricity for the battery, enabling it to run for about 300 miles, he said.

"People have to have confidence they can drive these vehicles everywhere," Coil said.

Eighty percent of charging of plug-in electric vehicles takes place at home, so it is imperative that people buy their vehicle a charging system, Dahlberg said. "Workspace charging and public charging gives people the peace of mind that they can recharge when they're away from their home."

The Department of Facilities Management has a fleet of six electric vehicles — more like golf carts than cars — for use around campus, mainly for running events and traveling short distances on campus, according to Stephen Maiorisi, vice president for Facilities Management.

Maiorisi said Facilities Management hopes to purchase more electric vehicles in coming years. "We are in favor of doing that as soon as we can," he said.


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