Electric-vehicle station opens in Norwich

Norwich - Eight electric vehicle charging stations at Norwich Public Utilities, including four newly opened to the public, were unveiled today during a ribbon-cutting ceremony that attracted U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney and other officials.

"Today is really historic, not just for Connecticut but for the nation," Blumenthal, D-Conn., said during a brief speech under a rain-soaked tent next to the municipal utility building on North Main Street where the charging stations are located. "There's nothing more important than energy independence today. It's a matter of national security."

Courtney, D-2nd District, pointed out that funding for the project, which also included the construction of publicly accessible compressed natural gas and biodiesel fuel facilities, was made possible through the 2009 federal stimulus package. The state received a total of $13.2 million in federal funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, combined with more than $16 million in other monies under a partnership put together by the Connecticut Clean Cities Future Fuels Project.

Norwich's alternative-fuel site was the seventh to open in the state under the Clean Cities program.

Jeanne Kurasz, programs coordinator for Norwich Public Utilities, said the compressed natural gas station -- selling fuel at only about $2 a gallon, versus more than $4 seen at many local gas pumps -- is the only 24-hour, publicly available facility of its type in southeastern Connecticut. The public electric charging stations also are likely the only ones in the region, she said, though individual companies such as Pfizer Inc. are installing similar facilities for use by employees or customers.

Kurasz said members of the public wishing to use the charging stations would have to open an account and receive a card to access the facility and for billing purposes. People using the compressed natural gas station would have to be given an access code, she added.

The charging stations, which include four that are meant to service utility vehicles, were installed by Bonner Electric in Uncasville.

Pete Polubiatko, project manager for Norwich Community Development Corp., and Jim Sullivan, chairman of the Norwich Utility Commission, pointed out that the city has been at the forefront of alternative-energy efforts, having leased electric vehicles more than a decade ago. It is now looking to aggressively add alternative-fuel vehicles to a fleet that includes dump trucks, service vans and a brand-new Chevy Volt.

"Norwich Public Utilities is an amazing institution because they have been doing this for over 10 years," Rep. Courtney said.

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POLL

Would you buy an all-electric car?

Yes, I drive one already.

7%

Yes, if they were more affordable.

20%

Yes, but it will have to wait until there are more charging stations.

20%

Maybe, it would help with gas costs but might not be feasible right now.

10%

No, it's not practical.

30%

No, they're not for me.

13%

Number of votes: 90