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OSU To Install Electric Car Charging Station

As more electric cars become available on the market, there will be a greater need for stations where people can charge up. WOSU reports this fall, Columbus will be the first city in Ohio to get an electric vehicle plug-in station. It sounds exciting, except for one minor detail...

"There's actually no cars out on the market that are able to use this," B.J. Yurkovich said.

Yurkovich is a graduate student at Ohio State University. He's working with General Electric, Plug Smart and other firms to develop the plug-in technology. OSU's Center for Automotive Research plans to install six stations on Kinnear Road in the fall. But it likely will be only OSU vehicles using them. Yurkovich said that's because the electric cars currently on the road use a different connector than those used at the Kinnear Road station. "There's actually two different types of hybrids. There's the hybrid-electrics like the Toyota Prius. And then there's PHEVs, what we call plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that actually allow you to get energy from the grid, so you can actually plug them in. And currently there are no PHEVs, or plug-in electric vehicles on the road today," he said.

General Motors plans to start selling the Chevy Volt, a plug-in electric vehicle, later this year. And it will have the new connector. But the car will not be for sale in Ohio right away. It will be available as close as Michigan, though.

OSU is spending about $30,000 on the charging stations. Frank Ohlemacher is the facilities manager at the Center for Automotive Research. He said the it has a hybrid-electric vehicle that it has converted to be compatible with the plug-in stations as well as an electric semi-truck.

"It's the chicken and the egg thing. And you've gotta have some infrastructure to charge these cars. Do you have that first? Or do you have the cars first? Well, we want to be the first to have the car charging stations and that's where we're headed," Olemacher said.

Ohlemacher said the stations mainly are for research, but the public could use them if their cars were compatible. But that costs money. A Toyota Prius runs about $25,000 plus an additional $10,000 to fit it for use at the plug-in station. Ohlemacher said it takes time to develop electric cars. In his words, "it's very complex." Belts and pullies have to be replaced and battery management systems must be developed.

"There's a lot of people right now who would like to have electric cars right now. And they keep asking why is taking so long. Why don't we have them now? So as they come on the market and they're available we're going to have a lot of them. I'm sure," he said.

The OSU charge station is free for use...if your hybrid can plug into it.