Northeast Utilities is in the initial stages of developing an electric charging infrastructure for plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) in Connecticut and Massachusetts. The initiative supports regional and national policy goals which include reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on petroleum-based resources.

In a recent application for a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant, two NU operating companies, The Connecticut Light & Power Co. (CL&P) and Western Massachusetts Electric Co. (WMECO), are proposing to build a network of 575 charging stations over the next two years. The plan calls for a geographically diverse combination of home-based, workplace and publicly accessible sites in the utilities' existing service territories. The companies are collaborating with New England-based Environment Northeast, the Greater New Haven Clean Cities Coalition, and the Town of West Hartford, Conn., on key aspects of the project including location selection and results monitoring.

"We see extraordinary potential in electric transportation as one of the tools to help meet the environmental and energy policy objectives of our regional and national leaders," said James B. Robb, NU senior vice president of enterprise planning and development. "As the next generation of vehicles gets introduced, likely late in 2010, we want to be sure that New England is among the first markets. The development of a charging infrastructure is important, both to support the adoption of these exciting new vehicles and to allow us to assess the impact on our electric distribution system."

"For sustainable technologies such as alternative fuel vehicles to really take hold and deliver significant benefits, a collaborative effort between policy makers, businesses and other stakeholders is required," said State Representative Vickie Nardello, House chair for the Connecticut General Assembly's Energy & Technology Committee. "NU's program is a necessary catalyst and part of the forward-thinking solutions we must embrace for a viable and sustainable future."

"Plug-in hybrids and other electric vehicles are going to be important components of our green energy future, but they won't work without a network of charging stations. I applaud Northeast Utilities for looking into the future and making this initial proposal to meet that need in their service territories," said Philip Giudice, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources.

NU has been working with the Electric Power and Research Institute (EPRI) in a collaborative effort to understand the utility impacts of plug-in electric vehicles. As part of NU's strategies for carbon reduction and sustainability, the company has several other forward-looking initiatives under way. In particular, the EV charging network complements the Smart Grid pilots at CL&P and WMECO, and is consistent with the planned expansion of company energy efficiency programs. "In addition, our transmission development program, which will facilitate the integration of low-carbon energy into the New England power supply, provides even more leverage to the environmental benefits of electric vehicles," noted Robb.

The DOE's decision is expected in June 2009. NU's application requested federal funding of $693,750 which is fifty percent of the project's total estimated cost of $1,387,500. "This is an initial proposal and we will be developing more specifics of the program over the summer, including substantial outreach to various stakeholders to help us maximize the impact of the grant," Robb said. "We are also examining opportunities to participate with other stakeholders in additional federal grant opportunities to advance the electrification of transportation."

"Electric vehicles have the potential to provide significant climate benefits and reduce our dependence on foreign oil," said Michael Stoddard, deputy director of Environment Northeast (ENE), a non-profit organization focused on efforts to combat global warming with solutions that promote clean energy, clean air and healthy forests. "ENE looks forward to collaborating on this initiative and expects that it will provide public interest in electric vehicles and will yield valuable information about how these vehicles work in the real world."

Several car manufacturers have announced roll-out plans for their new plug-in EV models, with expected "miles-per-gallon-equivalent" ratings of at least 80 to 150 MPGe. According to Stoddard, the near-term availability of new EVs in New England will depend on how "plug-in ready" our states and communities are. This initiative, potential tax incentives and other favorable state and local policies are important factors in speeding the arrival of electric vehicles onto the streets of New England.

"In addition to their home-based charging set-up, buyers of electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles want access to other reliable charging sites for optimal driving distance," said Lee Grannis of the Greater New Haven Clean Cities Coalition and lead coordinator of Clean Cities' project participation across Connecticut and Massachusetts. "In the case of all-electric vehicles, replacing 'range fear' with peace of mind for hundred-plus mile trips is key if we want interested consumers and the region as a whole to realize the benefits of electric vehicle technology. We also need information to design a robust grid that is structured to take on the demand of thousands of plug-in hybrid vehicles in the near future," Grannis added.