Local sales of plug-in electric vehicles and the latest hybrids cars will not start until next year, but Rock Hill will be ready with multiple charging stations - and free electricity.
Twelve stations are being funded by the state Department of Energy through the Plug In Carolina coalition. The local investment is about $75,000.
Stations are being installed in downtown and at Cherry Park. Other possible locations include the Dave Lyle Boulevard-Interstate 77 interchange, the Rock Hill-York County Airport, and near commuter bus stations.
Initially, there will be no cost to charge a plug-in vehicle, said Marty Burr, the city's performance manager. He predicted it will be about three or four years before the plug-ins become cost effective for the city to charge for electricity.
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When there is a charge, it will pale in comparison to the cost of a gallon of gas. Burr estimated it would cost a dollar or less for a "top-off" charge at a Rock Hill electric station. The estimated charging time would be several hours. Full charges will primarily be done at the owner's residence.
The cost might be more at "quick-charging" stations planned along I-77. Plug In Carolina wants install a network of stations between Columbia and Charlotte.
It is about 100 miles between the two cities - the maximum driving distance for a fully-charged all-electric Nissan Leaf, said James Poch, director of Plug In Carolina.
Quick charges would last between 15 and 30 minutes, replenishing most, but not all of the battery, he said.
The benefits of these quick charge stations would be environmental and economic as he envisions them placed near restaurants.
Statewide, Plug In Carolina has plans for a network of more than 100 stations. The first 40 will open Dec. 8 during a ceremony at the S.C. Statehouse. The statewide investment is $480,000.
This is not the first time Rock Hill has committed to electric and alternative-fuel vehicles.
Burr said the city had two electric vehicles during the 1970s, in partnership with York Tech.
Now, the city fleet includes two vehicles that run on compressed natural gas. The city will get a Chevy Volt and a Nissan Leaf in 2011, using grant money to pay for them. The city also has several GM "Bubble" electric vehicles that are used to patrol the parks.
"We want to be green, because we are an electric city," Burr said.
Harrelson Nissan on Cherry Road is scheduled to receive its first Leaf in January. The Leaf should be available for test drives, said manager Lloyd Edwards.
The vehicles will be sold on a pre-sale-only basis. There will be a certified salesman to help buyers purchase the Leaf, he said. The dealership also plans to install three charging stations.
The expected sticker price of the basic Leaf is $32,780, with a federal tax credit bringing the price to $25,280.
Sales of the Chevy Volt begin next year. Burns Chevrolet is not sure when it will get the Volt for sale. The dealership also plans to install a charging station, said sales manager David Choate.
The Volt is a hybrid with a gasoline engine. It runs on the battery for about 40 miles. After that, the gasoline engine supplies electricity to the motor for as many as 300 additional miles. The sticker price of the basic Volt is expected to be $41,000. The federal tax credit reduces the price to $33,500.