RI building network of car charging stations

Rhode Island is building up to 50 electric vehicle charging stations for motorists around the state and also plans to purchase hybrid or electric-powered vehicles for the state fleet whenever possible, the governor announced Tuesday.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee said the moves, paid for by federal stimulus money, will help improve the state's economy and save money on gas.

"We are developing a clean and efficient transportation infrastructure for the future, saving taxpayer dollars and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants," Chafee said in a written statement.

The first charging station is at Roger Williams University in Bristol. The others are scheduled to be installed by Sept. 30, said Allison Rogers of the state Department of Administration.

Before the announcement, Rhode Island had 11 publicly available charging stations. It is not known how many electric cars are currently registered in the state, but electric car advocates say about 100,000 are on the road nationwide.

State officials said the stations will be installed in convenient places such as restaurants and shopping plazas as well as popular destinations like state parks and beaches. The stations will have two charging spots, and state officials hope many of them will be free to use.

The state awarded a $781,225 contract to charging station company ChargePoint to find places for and to install the stations. Drivers will be able to use their smartphones or go online to find and reserve a station.

"You walk up to a station, wave (a)card in front of it, you'll hear a click. You open what looks like a gas capdoor on the car, plug it in and walk away," Pat Romano of ChargePoint said.

The state has already replaced 30 gas-powered cars in its fleet with hybrids and plug-in hybrids, Director of Administration Richard Licht said. The state will use federal stimulus money to pay for the difference in upfront cost between those vehicles and gas-powered vehicles.