OLDSMAR — The city founded by the inventor of the Oldsmobile — the oldest car brand — is paving the way for greener vehicles.
Oldsmar has become the first city in Tampa Bay to roll out a vehicle charging station as part of a federally funded program aimed at reducing the nation's dependency on foreign oil.
The city met that challenge on Wednesday by installing its first of four stations on State Street W.
Oldsmar City Council member Linda Norris said it's important to be on the front line of green initiatives. "Oldsmar is not the sleepy city that a lot people think that it is," Norris said of the city founded by Ransom E. Olds.
The station is across from City Hall at 101 State Street W. Within the next 30 days, Oldsmar plans to install two others on State Street and another on St. Petersburg Drive, said Julie Foster, the city's sustainability coordinator.
It will cost only a buck to charge up in Oldsmar, she said. The city plans to charge a $1 access fee no matter how long vehicles plug into the stations manufactured by Coulomb Technologies.
Typically, the stations fully charge electric cars within four hours, said Joe Vumbaco, a vice president at NovaCharge, the distributor of the charging stations.
The federally funded ChargePoint America grant program covers the cost of the stations, which run about $7,000 or $8,000 each, Vumbaco said. The $37 million program is made possible by a grant funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The goal of the ChargePoint America program is to have 100 stations available for charging plug-in vehicles throughout Tampa Bay by the end of October, Vumbaco said.
The program is also setting the stage for hundreds of stations in Orlando.
"Just knowing those charging stations are there adds confidence to the marketplace," said Avera Wynne, planning director of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, which helped launch a regional initiative called Get Ready Tampa Bay.
The initiative is preparing for the widespread use of electric vehicles down the road. It includes government agencies, utility companies and businesses in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Manatee counties. City partners include Oldsmar, Clearwater, Dunedin, Gulfport, Seminole and St. Petersburg. The regional partnership is an affiliate of a national nonprofit called Project Get Ready.
St. Petersburg is planning to install 10 electric car charging stations downtown.
For now, Clearwater plans to install one station in the Garden Avenue parking garage downtown. It's on order and should be shipped within the next 10 days, said city spokeswoman Joelle Castelli.
In Dunedin, city leaders discussed stations this week, but haven't decided how many, if any, will be installed.
President Barack Obama has called for 1 million electric vehicles on U.S. highways by 2015.
So far, they're far from common on the roads. But interest is growing for the vehicles, which include the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid electric car manufactured by General Motors, and Nissan's 100 percent electric vehicle called the Leaf.
"There's a great positive buzz about these vehicles and this technology, but we haven't really had a full-speed-ahead market," Vumbaco said.
The Volt starts at just under $41,000 and the Leaf starts at just over $35,000. Both may be eligible for tax credits up to $7,500.
"Folks are going to be surprised about the number of (plug-in) vehicles they see on the road by Christmas," Wynne said.
Maher Chevrolet on 34th Street in St. Petersburg currently has a Volt demo and several on order, said Matthew Berry, a sales consultant at Maher. Within six weeks, the dealership hopes to have them in stock.
Environmentally conscious and tech-savvy customers have shown a lot of interest in the car, Berry said.
"A good percentage of Volt buyers are trading in Priuses or higher end sports cars like BMWs," he said.
Times Staff Writer Keyonna Summers contributed to this report. Lorri Helfand can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4155.