Friday, April 27, 2012

Electric vehicle charging station unveiled in Houghton

By Michele Bourdieu

Michigan Tech students who worked on the project were present for the unveiling of the new public electric vehicle charging station on the Houghton parking deck behind the Fifth and Elm Coffee House on Wednesday, Apr. 25. Michigan Tech faculty members who worked with the students are George Dewey (left of sign), civil and environmental engineering; Roger Woods (far right), business; and John Ludowski (fourth from right), electrical engineering. (Photos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

HOUGHTON -- On Wednesday, Apr. 25, the City of Houghton parking deck behind the Fifth and Elm Coffee House was the scene of a "first" for Michigan Tech University students and the City of Houghton -- the unveiling of the first public charging station for electric vehicles in this area of the Upper Peninsula (possibly the first active one in the whole UP).

Two Chevy Volt electric cars were on site for the event -- and one was being charged at the station, which is connected to the Fifth and Elm, whose owner, Frank Fiala, is presently providing the electricity for the 240-volt charging unit (visible on the wall in the photo above).

"This is a student project," said George Dewey, Michigan Tech professor of civil and environmental engineering and faculty advisor for Michigan Tech's Transportation Enterprise program. "It's driven by students. A lot of the decisions are made by the students, and they certainly deserve -- I would say -- most of the credit beyond the sponsors. General Motors is the key sponsor here in the start of this project and continues to support a whole variety of student projects at Michigan Tech."

Dewey added this is only one of several projects at Michigan Tech involving electric and hybrid vehicles. He mentioned another is Michigan Tech's hybrid electric vehicles mobile lab -- on display in Washington, DC, this week.*

George Dewey, Michigan Tech professor of civil and environmental engineering, speaks about the interdisciplinary and community approach to this electric vehicle charging project -- involving students in civil engineering, electrical engineering, and business. Also speaking about the challenges of the project are John Ludowski, Michigan Tech professor of electrical engineering, and Roger Woods, faculty member in Michigan Tech's School of Business and Economics. Dewey also acknowledges the support of Houghton City Manager Scott Mac Innes (in photo below); Dan Crane, Upper Peninsula Power Company regional account executive; and Frank Fiala, owner of the Fifth and Elm Coffee House, where the public charging facility is located. Fiala is presently donating the electricity for the charging unit. (Videos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

The Michigan Tech student teams studied many of the technical and business issues of public charging -- including predicting how many charging stations will be needed, the best locations for charging stations, and a viable business model to pay for the charging infrastructure as well as the electricity used.

Pictured here with the new sign for the charging station are, from left, Frank Fiala, owner of the Fifth and Elm Coffee House; Michigan Tech professors John Ludowski, George Dewey and Roger Woods; Dan Crane of the Upper Peninsula Power Company; and Scott Mac Innes, Houghton city manager.

Frank Fiala said the Fifth and Elm Coffee House is presently donating the electricity for the charging station, which is connected to his electrical system, as a start-up service for the project.

"If the demand increases so that it becomes more and more expensive to offer the service, we can put in some sort of payment system," Fiala said.

He considers the donation an advertising expense for now, since the signage for the charging station includes the Fifth and Elm.

Michigan Tech Professor George Dewey and students display the Electric Vehicle Charging Station sign, which lists sponsors and partners in the project. 

"It will create awareness of who we are," Fiala added.

He also believes the charging station will help attract people to downtown Houghton.

To a question on where the next charging station might be located, Ludowski said Eaton, the company that donated the charging unit, donated a second one, which he and Dewey are working to locate on the Michigan Tech campus.

George Dewey mentions other renewable energy projects involving Michigan Tech students. He also shows an example of a 110-volt charger, the type used to charge an
electric car at home. John Ludowski explains the safety feature that prevents driving the Chevy Volt with the charging cord plugged in.

The Chevy Volt vehicles on display at the charging station require two and a half hours (at 240 volts) to charge an empty battery. The time to charge it at home on 110 volts is considerably longer. However, Dewey pointed out most electric vehicle owners would use a public charging station when the battery is not empty, possibly just to "top off" or to charge the car while doing something else downtown.

Chevrolet claims their "Volt is unique among electric vehicles because you have two sources of energy. You have an electric source -- a battery -- that allows you to drive gas-free for an EPA-estimated 35 miles. And there's also an onboard gas generator that produces electricity so you can go up to a total of 375 miles on a full tank of gas."**

Editor's Notes:
* Click here to read about the mobile lab on the Michigan Tech News.

** Click here for info on the Chevy Volt.

1 comment:

dan said...

Electric Car Charging Station in Miami?
Maybe someone knows where I can find a charging station electric vehicles in Miami