Minneapolis invests in chargers for electric cars

A federal grant would provide up to 25 electric-car charging stations.
By
  • Jessica Lee
September 19, 2012

A Minneapolis City Council committee approved a grant Monday that would provide up to 25 electric-car charging stations in downtown Minneapolis parking ramps.

The Ways and Means Committee approved the $220,000 state grant, a combined effort with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Minneapolis and the Minnesota Department of Transportation would pay $55,000 in matching funds, pending approval by the full council Friday.

Up to 25 charging stations would go in downtown Minneapolis ramps.

Thirteen stations are planned for the A Ramp, and four are planned for the B Ramp — both near Target Field. Four stations are expected to be installed at the Jerry Haaf Memorial Ramp near City Hall and four at the Leamington Parking Ramp near the downtown Hilton.

City of Minneapolis spokesman Casper Hill said the number of stations is subject to change.

The chargers are part of a push to get more electric cars on the road.

“It’s the story of which came first, the chicken or the egg?” said ReGo Electric Conversions general manager Garrett Ferderber.

“If there’s a low amount of electric-car charging stations available, people’s desire to buy electric cars won’t be very high,” he said. “But if there aren’t many electric cars on the road, that means there’s less need for the charging stations.”

ReGo is a Minneapolis-based business dedicated to converting existing hybrid vehicles into plug-in hybrid vehicles.

“We’ve laid the groundwork, voiced our opinions and pushed for more [charging] stations,” Ferderber said. “But we can’t directly make that happen. It’s the MPCA and City Council.”

Minneapolis isn’t the first city to invest in electric cars, said Fran Crotty, a renewable energy and alternative fuels team leader for the MPCA who talks to citizens and businesses, like ReGo, about station availability.

“There are cities all around making significant investments and commitments greater than the Twin Cities,” City Councilwoman Elizabeth Glidden said. “There are cities out there with more aggressive goals to change the market.”

In 2008, President Barack Obama said he wanted at least 1 million electric cars in the U.S. by 2015.

Glidden said the new charging stations in Minneapolis are a way the city’s “jumping on board” with the national movement of electric cars.

She said she doesn’t “expect to see the market change in the first day,” but Minneapolis is “very fortunate to have grant money funded to help stimulate the market.”

The installation of the new charging stations is an example of the cities’ effort to bring more electric-car manufacturers to the state, Glidden said.

“Manufacturers will come forth over time,” she said. “It’s all about laying the groundwork now.”

The Jerry Haaf ramp already has three charging stations where ramp patrons charge their cars for free after paying for parking.

Crotty said the stations “will prepare us for what’s to come.”

“I’m starting to see electric cars on the street, which is great.”

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