Owning a plug-in hybrid car just got a little easier... if you live in San Jose, Calif., that is. If so, you can now drive your car downtown, park and recharge your battery by plugging into the power supply on a nearby lamppost. Coulomb Technologies in nearby Campbell has installed four charging stations in the city—three in a parking garage on 4th Street and one curbside across from city hall.
Using the company’s ChargePoint Network, subscribers receive a smart card that allows them to fuel up at any station. Users can pay for 10 sessions a month for $15 or all the way up to unlimited monthly access for $50. The charging station will work for fully electric vehicles as well as plug-in hybrids. Subscribers can visit Coulomb’s Web site to see in real time, via Google Maps, which stations are occupied or available.
Coulomb hopes to keep expanding: it’s working to supply 40 charging stations at truck stops along several California highways, and distributors are set up in 28 states. CEO Richard Lowenthal points out that in large cities, where cars typically outnumber residential garage spaces, drivers have nowhere to plug in. Placing chargers at offices and public lots will make owning electric vehicles more convenient. “Right now this is mostly policy-driven,” Lowenthal says. “But when people see that electric cars can be compatible with daily life, it will start to be consumer-driven.”