Grabbing $100 million in a highly competitive stimulus program isn’t a bad start for one of the largest electric car charging infrastructure projects to date. That grant went out earlier this month to ECOtality subsidiary eTec, which has partnered up with Nissan, utility San Diego Gas & Electric, and other companies to install a whopping 12,750 charging systems in five states using the new funds. (For comparison, it has installed just over 400 charging stations for on-road electric vehicles so far, which eTec claims is more than any other company.) This morning, ECOtality said more government funds are rolling in for the Golden State portion of its project, with the California Energy Commission expected to contribute up to $8 million.
The Energy Commission funding comes as part of a state cost-sharing program set up for electric vehicle technology projects in California supported by federal stimulus funds. The $8 million is at this point just an estimate, but it’s significantly higher than estimates for five other projects the commission announced late last week, including funding for EV demo projects that Chrysler, Ford and General Motors have in the works with various utilities.
Final award amounts will be based on factors such as the total project budget, the amount of funding awarded through the federal program, and how much is really needed from the state to carry out the final proposal. But at this point, the commission is considering nearly $15 million for the six projects, including $5 million for a demo of plug-in hybrids in a commercial fleet in the Los Angeles area.
eTec, by contrast, is working to develop more consumer-oriented infrastructure, using Nissan’s upcoming LEAF electric sedan — which the automaker has designed with an eye to the mass market — and reportedly collaborating with retailers like Starbucks and Wal-Mart to figure out whether charge points at their stores can bring in extra revenue for the companies through parking fees or by attracting new customers.
As a result, eTec could be on its way to morphing from a behind-the-scenes provider of battery and vehicle performance testing, life cycle cost estimates, and electric fleet management, to a higher-profile provider of charging stations for early adopters of electric cars.