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Asheville company opens new solar-powered station to charge electric cars

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12/12/2011 - Asheville company opens new solar-powered station to charge electric cars
by Dale Neal - Asheville Citizen Times

BioWheels Responsible Transportation Solutions will officially open its new charging station for electric vehicles today at the Asheville Public Works Building on Charlotte Street.

BioWheels Responsible Transportation Solutions will officially open its new charging station for electric vehicles today at the Asheville Public Works Building on Charlotte Street. / SPECIAL TO CITIZEN-TIMES

ASHEVILLE -- Stan Cross hopes drivers will get used to "driving on sunshine" with today's opening of a new public solar-powered charging station for electric vehicles.

 Cross and other founders of the BioWheels Responsible Transportation Solutions will join elected officials for the 10 a.m. ribbon-cutting of the company's Brightfield charging station at Asheville City Public Works Building at the corner of Charlotte and Eagle streets. 

 Featured guests include U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy, Deputy N.C. Commerce Secretary Dale Carroll and Scott Hamilton, CEO of AdvantageWest. 

 The new station underscores entrepreneurs' commitment to bring alternative energy and cleaner transportation to the region, Cross said. 

"Our focus is on creating a more resilient community. All of us connected with BioWheels RTS were living here when Hurricane Rita struck the refineries in Texas and we had no gas (in Asheville) for two weeks," Cross said. "Western North Carolina is unique in being at the end of the energy line. We have to take more responsibility for generating our own energy."

The station will generate 5 kilowats of solar energy annually , enough to provide 30,000 vehicle miles of solar power for electric vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf that are rolling off the assembly lines and into Western North Carolina.

The station features three electric vehicle chargers that will be free to the public. During the day, the solar array on the roof will generate power that will be fed onto the electric grid.

Cross envisions most of the charging will occur at night when car owners visiting downtown can pull in and recharge their vehicles, pulling power from the grid.

"Our job is generating more solar capacity than is being used by vehicles. Instead of creating a battery storage system, we use our existing infrastructure," Cross said.

By the end of the month, BioWheels will open additional stations at Land-of-Sky-Regional Council off Leicester Highway, at the Reuter Center on the UNC Asheville campus and at the BioWheels store on Coxe Avenue. The company used $376,000 in federal stimulus money funneled through the N.C. Green Business Fund to boost alternative energy.

BioWheels is just one player in the growing number of charging stations opening in the area. The Hilton at Biltmore Park boasts new public chargers manufactured locally by Eaton Corp.

By the end of this year, drivers can start recharging their cars for free at 25 electrical stations around the region, funded by $150,000 from a federal grant.

"We still need to educate more people about electric vehicles and getting them behind the wheel," said Brian Taylor of Land-of-Sky Regional Council. As charging stations become more common, more drivers may want to invest in the new vehicles.

With an estimated 1 million electric vehicles projected by 2015, Asheville could see up to 2,000 electric-powered cars in the next three years.

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