Coulomb unveils electric-car charging stations

Tests of Coulomb Technologies' curbside stations for recharging electric vehicles are coming first to San Jose, Calif, under a two-year contract using the existing infrastructure.

Coulomb is developing plug-in hybrid chargers for public places.
Coulomb is developing plug-in hybrid chargers for public places. Kim Smith/General Motors

The city of San Jose, Calif., will be the first to test electric-car charging stations from start-up Coulomb Technologies.

The company's products include 110-volt outlets that can be outfitted in public and mounted on poles, such as streetlights.

Coulomb is designing ChargePoint Network stations to scale to the national level, with a projected need of two stations per car, as electricity-powered vehicles become popular. Each Smartlet station would cost between $1,000 and $2,000 for a business or municipality to set up.

The company aims to demonstrate its technology on Tuesday on a Saturn Vue plug-in hybrid at the Plug-In 2008 conference in San Jose.

"We're listening to automakers, and we're laying out the infrastructure to help them succeed," said Richard Lowenthal, Coulomb's CEO. The former mayor of Cupertino, Calif., is on the waiting list for a Tesla electric Roadster .

Because there are only 54 million U.S. garages for 247 million registered passenger cars, Coulomb eventually could fill a need for the majority of drivers of electric cars, he said. Car-sharing services would potentially make ideal customers for Coulomb, he added.

Those at Coulomb Technologies envision a subscription model that would charge a premium for tapping into the grid during peak demand times. They also tout utility grid management technology.

The company would provide charging stations with wireless communications, managing a mesh network to authenticate users, and manage energy flow and metering. Users, hosts, and utilities would access GPS-linked data online.

Coulomb's team includes former executives from Tesla Motors, Cisco Systems, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, and Echelon.

The Campbell, Calif., company said it is talking with potential customers in other California cities, as well as in Texas, Colorado, Florida, and New York.

The two-year contract makes San Jose the first U.S. city to offer electric-car charging within an existing infrastructure, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said in a statement.

Also aiming to advance the urban adoption of plug-in cars on Monday, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom invited companies to share their ideas for electric-vehicle infrastructure. Lowenthal aims for Coulomb to participate.

Coulomb's charging stations and network would be connected wirelessly.
Coulomb's charging stations and network would be connected wirelessly. Coulomb Technologies
 

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