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Faster chargers for electric cars are heading to Tampa Bay

TEMPLE TERRACE — Owners of electric vehicles, accustomed to spending five hours or so to recharge their cars, will soon have seven new fast-charging stations around the Tampa Bay area that can fill their cars and have them back on the road in 30 minutes or less.

Scores of electric vehicle chargers dot the landscape of the Tampa Bay area, but most of them are the slower models that take hours to recharge electric car batteries. The first of the Nissan Quick Chargers has been installed in the parking lot across from Temple Terrace City Hall, next to Outback Steakhouse, and is expected to be open for business next week.

"This was one of the first installations of this charger in the U.S.,'' said Brendan Jones, director of electric vehicle sales and infrastructure development with Nissan. "Tampa is a target market for us.''

Jones said six other fast chargers should be up and running by the end of March, with one set for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. He declined to identify the other locations until details are worked out.

The charger, made by the Korean company Signet, can fill a Nissan Leaf to 80 percent capacity in less than 30 minutes and will also accommodate the Kia Soul, Tesla S model and electric cars made by BMW and Volkswagen. Most customers won't need a full charge and are more likely to spend 14 to 17 minutes at the charging station, Jones said. Customers will pay 30 cents per kilowatt hour for the juice.

Temple Terrace City Council member Grant Rimbey found out about a program in which Nissan donated the $30,000 machine and $5,000 toward the $5,750 installation cost. Rimbey raised the rest of the money through donations.

"It seemed like a natural fit for Temple Terrace to move in this direction,'' said Rimbey, noting that "the city is trying to become more sustainable and forward-thinking.''

He said the machine is already creating "positive buzz'' among electric vehicle owners in Tampa.

Nissan is setting up fast-charging stations throughout the country, Jones said, and hopes to work with other car manufacturers to share costs of building the infrastructure needed to put more electric cars on the road.

"This level-three charger is fabulous,'' said Warren Cohen, who drives a Tesla electric car. "It's the right kind of charging infrastructure, in my opinion, to be installing.''

He's glad to see that his Tesla Model S can fill up at the new chargers, though Tesla has a substantial network of its own Superchargers, as the company calls its fast-charging machines. Eight are available at the Regency Square shopping center in Brandon, for example. The Tesla machines can put 175 miles of charge in Cohen's car in a half hour or provide the full capacity of 265 miles in 70 minutes.

Most other electric cars have ranges between 68 and 103 miles. Tom Krumreich, vice president of the Suncoast Electric Vehicle Association, said electric cars are expected to become popular with the masses in this country once they all can do as Tesla has done and provide at least 200 miles between charges.

"It's all about range anxiety,'' Krumreich said. In the meantime, he added, the fast chargers are the best answer.

Many of the cars cost too much for the average consumer — the Tesla Model S sells for about $77,000 — but Krumreich said prices are dropping. The Nissan Leaf, with about an 80-mile range, sells for about $29,000.

Doing one's part to free the country from oil dependency and clean up the environment won't be much of a sacrifice once people can drive 265 miles between charges, Cohen said.

"It's like taking medicine if the medicine is a hot fudge sundae.''

Contact Philip Morgan at pmorgan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3435.

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