EV car charging network at standstill after bankruptcy

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by ALISON MORROW / KING 5

Bio | Email | Follow: @AlisonMorrowTV

KING5.com

Posted on February 22, 2014 at 12:13 AM

According to WDOT, electric vehicle fast-charging stations are the key to growing the EV network in the state because they can juice up a car in 30 minutes.

Level II stations can take up to 6 hours.

But the group responsible for building the fast-charging network around Seattle left a big hole with an uncertain future.

That's also left an uncertain future for the EV as a primary family vehicle in western Washington.

"Without these, this is the 2nd car in the family," Jay Donnaway said.

Donnaway and his family love their electric vehicle so much, they named it "Mr. Bean".

"It can scoot through traffic," Donnaway smiled.

Except, Mr. Bean needs a charge about every 60 miles, and the fast-charging station Donnaway once used in Auburn has nothing left to give.

"It's been out of commission since before Christmas," Donnaway said.

In 2009, a company named ECOtality got $115 million in federal funding to install EV charging stations across the country.

They planned 22 fast-charging EV stations in the Seattle area, from Everett to Olympia.

"The state of Washington made its investments planning on that," explained WDOT Director of Public/Private Partnerships Jeff Doyle.

The state built its EV charging network around ECOtality's, assuming the company would finish what it started,

Unexpectedly for even some of the employees, Doyle says, ECOtality declared bankruptcy in 2013.

"The primary concern is for all the people who have purchased electric vehicles in our state who were depending on the Seattle area network being built out," Doyle said.

ECOtality only produced half of the 22 fast charging stations promised, today adding up to just 11.

Some aren't even functioning.

"So we're getting that network back up and running in healthy working order," explained Blink Network General Manager Jim Stanley.

Stanley works for the CarCharging Group, the company that bought ECOtality's Blink Network at auction for more than $4 million. Their main focus remains stabilizing the current network of charging stations.

When KING 5 asked whether they planned to finish what ECOtality started, Stanley only said they'd like to grow, but gave few specifics.

"Growth is definitely part of the equation for us," he said. "I can't comment on specific sites that were targetted by ECOtality."

The DOE is negotiating with the CarCharging Group, who wants to unlock the remaining federal funds.

When asked why more tax money should go toward a project that already failed once, Stanley responded that they'd handle it differently.

"Like any start-up business, there's risk involved," Doyle said. "Everyone knew going in that this was an untested market.".

Though Doyle's department still believes it's realistic that CarCharging will finalize the 22 fast-charging stations, they are prepared to allocate $1.2 million toward the project if need be.

Governor Inslee's budget includes $5 million to expand the electric vehicle network in Washington.

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