The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

April 26, 2013

Pa. Turnpike to install electric car charging stations

Stephen Ohlemacher
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Pennsylvania Turnpike will take a "leap of faith" with its new electric-vehicle charging stations.

The stations will appear in four of the turnpike's service plazas this summer. They come in response to a growing demand for fuel efficiency, but it's hard to gauge the impact they will have on motorists, said Carl DeFebo, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

He called the endeavor "a little bit of a leap of faith," since it's hard to measure its future success. But overall trends suggest an increase in demand as more electric car models are released, he said. The turnpike has a history with using alternative fuels, such as biodiesel in its fleet vehicles, he said.

"It was kind of a natural fit for us," he said.

And after all, it's a toll road, and people pay a premium to ride on it, he said.

"You should get a little more for transportation expenses," he said. "There's got to be more infrastructure like this."

He said the turnpike seems to be a pioneer with installing charging stations.

"We don't know of a highway system that has them," he said.

The commission announced Tuesday that it will open electric-vehicle charging stations at the Oakmont plaza in Allegheny County; the New Stanton plaza in Westmoreland County; the Bowmansville plaza in Lancaster County; and the King of Prussia plaza in Montgomery County this summer.

The 550-mile turnpike system is used by more than 510,000 motorists per day, according to the commission.

The stations' funding comes from a $1 million grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection, $500,000 from the turnpike, and $1 million from the Car Charging Group in Miami.

"This is a great example of a public partnership," DeFebo said.

All of the turnpike's 17 plazas will have the charging stations installed. He said he estimates installation to be complete in roughly four to five years.

The level-two chargers take about four hours to fully charge a car, he said, although motorists have much to do while they wait, such as browse the public Internet or get coffee at Starbucks. There will be two charging stations at each location, he said.

The four initial locations were chosen because they were spread out and service metropolitan areas that see high traffic, he said.

The charging stations will be located near the rear of the plaza parking lots. Customers will pay at the charging station with a credit or debit card.

Consumer costs will be announced prior the opening of the stations this summer.

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Mollie Durkin can also be reached at mdurkin@yorkdispatch.com.