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Coulomb's Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Are Live in San Jose

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smartlet-cityhallA future in which you can charge an electric vehicle during a downtown shopping trip is getting a little bit closer today. Electric vehicle charging station startup Coulomb Technologies is having a media event this afternoon in San Jose, Calif., at which the company plans to show off three live electric vehicle charging stations in the downtown San Jose area — for those of you familiar with the area that’s one station on Santa Clara Street and two stations at the Fourth Street garage.

OK, so three live stations doesn’t exactly set up San Jose as a major electric vehicle hub, but Coulomb says it will be adding more stations in the coming weeks. And let’s face it, there just aren’t that many plug-in vehicles on the roads yet, either in California or the U.S. Felix Kramer, founder of, estimates there are around 250 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in the US.

What’s interesting, though, is how Coulomb intends to sell — and market — vehicle charging power to those early adopters that do have plug-in cars. Like another electric vehicle infrastructure company Better Place, Coulomb plans to offer subscription plans. That includes a limited-time “Basic Access” subscription offer, which the company says includes free charging through 2009.

coulombcharging1smallSubscribers pay a one time $10 account setup fee and receive a charging card, which enables them to access any station. Then there’s options for varying monthly plans including: $15 per month for 10 night time charging sessions, $30 per month for unlimited night time charging sessions, $20 per month for “grid-friendly” charging sessions (we’re assuming that’s off-peak when the utility says it’s OK), $40 per month for unlimited “grid-friendly” charging sessions, $25 per month for 10 anytime sessions, and $50 per month for unlimited charging at anytime.

Fifty dollars per month ($600 per year) might sound like a lot for anytime unlimited access, but think how much you pay in gas per month and per year. But realistically, at this point, the only people who are going to sign up for a service with such limited access are EV owners that just want test out the novel technology.

coulombcharging2smallCoulomb announced last year that the company would be installing its charging stations in San Jose. The Mayor of San Jose, Chuck Reed, who will be attending the media event today, has been very aggressive about trying to recruit clean technology companies to the city (see our video interview with him here).

Coulomb Technologies has also set its sights on Europe. Founder and CEO Richard Lowenthal told us recently that the company will enter the European market in 2009 — check out these images of the company’s EU prototypes.

Better Place, which will be coordinating both electric vehicle distribution and charging infrastructure, plans to build a $1 billion charging and battery-swapping network in the Bay Area and eventually build the network out to the rest of California. We’re not sure if the companies’ charging stations will be compatible, but Coulomb says it is using the industry standard for its charging stations.

Better Place’s network still needs to be approved by the city of San Francisco, but the company said at a news event in November that it would start planning and permitting this month, with installation starting in 2010, and more widespread charging station access by 2012.

Images courtesy of Coulomb.

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