Tucson's gets first public 'fast charger' for electric cars

2013-08-16T00:00:00Z 2013-08-16T07:57:39Z Tucson's gets first public 'fast charger' for electric carsBy David Wichner Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Local electric-car owners got a boost recently with the installation of the Tucson area’s first public “fast-charging” system at Bookmans Sports Exchange.

The so-called Level 3 DC charger, installed by Mesa-based GOe3, is powered partly by a large solar energy array at the store, 3330 E. Speedway.

The system can fully charge electric vehicles with compatible plug-ins in as little as 20 minutes, compared with four to six hours for a Level 2 charger. The installation also features Level 2 charging at a higher amperage than standard Level 2 chargers used in other public and home setups, GOe3 says.

Bookmans owner Bob Oldfather, a longtime supporter of electric vehicles, started installing EV chargers at his stores a few years ago because he felt it was the right thing to do. Besides the Sports Exchange, the company offers free Level 2 charging at its three other Tucson stores and its single stores in Phoenix, Mesa and Flagstaff.

“I think electric vehicles are the future,” said Oldfather, a collector of vintage electrics who acknowleged that the “green” publicity doesn’t hurt.

Charging at the Bookmans will be free until Oct. 1 and then will cost $5 to fully fast-charge EVs using a Japanese standard plug like those used by the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, GOe3 CEO Bruce Brimacombe said. Level 2 charging will remain free, as it is at Bookmans other locations.

The charger soon will be able to also fast-charge Tesla electric cars, which draw more juice for a range of up to 200 miles, but GOe3 is awaiting finalization of a U.S.-standard plug for those vehicles, Bricacombe said. The fee to charge Teslas will be $13.

Much of the energy supplied to the store and chargers will come from a 50-kilowatt photovoltaic array mounted on a parking canopy.

The new fast charger means local EV enthusiasts can quickly extend their range for a day of errand-running, while people traveling through Tucson can quickly get enough juice to reach the next fast-charging station.

“If they forget to charge, if they’re having a day where they have to do a lot of running around they didn’t plan on, they’re going to be able to stop and charge,” said Colleen Crowninshield, clean-cities program manager for the Pima Association of Governments.

More than 2,100 electric vehicles are registered in Pima County, according to state data shared with PAG.

The Tucson fast-charger is a boon to EVers statewide, Crowninshield noted.

The next nearest Level 3 toward Phoenix is one installed by GOe3 at Picacho, about 45 miles from the Bookmans Sports Exchange. In March, a fast charger was installed off Interstate 10 in Casa Grande, at a Chevron service station at Exit 194. Current EVs like the Leaf can go 80 to 100 miles on a charge, depending on terrain and speed.

“We have people all over the state that have EVs, including in Nogales, and now they can get to Tucson and get a charge and get to Casa Grande and get a charge and make it all the way to Phoenix,” Crowninshield said. There are about a dozen public fast chargers in the Phoenix area.

The GOe3 fast charger at Picacho was the first in Southern Arizona when it was opened in December, but it suffered some technical problems that limited its availability, Brimacombe said. That charger is now available and also will offer free charging until October, he added.

GOe3 plans a network of chargers across Arizona, including along I-19 and more along I-10, eventually branching out nationwide, Brimacombe said.

Aside from the environmental aspect, Oldfather believes it’s a growing market.

“The long-term outlook on it is huge,” he said.

Contact Assistant Business Editor David Wichner at dwichner@azstarnet.com or 573-4181.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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