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Nebraska cities gearing up for electric cars
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Nebraska cities gearing up for electric cars

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Nebraska municipalities, including Seward and South Sioux City, are positioning themselves for the electric-car era.

South Sioux City just took delivery on a Nissan Leaf and the two towns are among eight putting in or planning to put in recharging stations that can be used by both publicly and privately owned vehicles.

“I’m really convinced this is a great project,” said South Sioux City Administrator Lance Hedquist.

Its charging station “should be in place late this week or early next week,” Hedquist said Monday. “We also purchased a new vehicle. It’s here. People are very excited about it.”

“(The car) clearly has more zip than we thought it would have before we drove it. It’s extremely quiet. And it works great for in-town travel -- and most of the travel that cities do is within towns.”

Indications are “that it could actually beat a police car off the line” -- not that there ever would be any reason to try that, he added with a laugh.

The Seward City Council will get an update Tuesday night on plans for three charging stations there, one at the city library and two others at Seward High School and Concordia University.

Seward City Administrator Brett Baker, also the president of the state’s city and county managers, will brief local officials.

“We’re helping this electric transportation coalition place some of these charging stations strategically,” he said.

Other communities in line for charging stations include Albion, Bellevue, Lexington, Nebraska City, Ogallala and Kimball.

At this stage, that list is almost as long as the one from the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles that identifies registered electric cars. As of Sept. 17, there were 14 Nissan Leafs and one Chevy Volt.

Much of the rest of the state registry was low-speed vehicles that don’t go faster than 25 miles per hour.

But Anne McCollister, owner-manager of the Lincoln-based Electric Transportation Partners and seller of charging stations, said the pro-active stance of communities is encouraging.

“The idea is to really energize communities by creating a refueling infrastructure for electrified travel within communities,” she said.

Having charging points every 40 miles or so is also important, because the range of electric vehicles available in 2012 is 80 to 100 miles.

“You begin to see the skeletal outline, the laying down of the bones of an electric highway where people can begin to envision electric transportation,” McCollister said.

Hedquist said South Sioux City will assign its first electric car to its technology division, which is responsible for fiber optic network.

A three-year lease at $10,000 a year means the city will own the vehicle at the end of the payment period.

“It runs off electricity which we sell. I think it will cost us -- for 15,000 miles -- it will probably cost us a maximum of $350 a year.”

That’s significant savings over what it would cost to drive a gasoline-powered vehicle.

Seward’s Baker said drivers can pull up for a charge much in the same way they refill their gas tanks. The charge points are equipped to take debit cards.

McCollister said a national promotion campaign mounted by the California-based Charge Point means the first wave of participating Nebraska towns will get their charging stations for free.

Reach Art Hovey at 402-473-7223 or at ahovey@journalstar.com

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