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Word on the Street: New charging stations at Whole Foods, Fashion Fair; California launches incentive program

A charging station for electric cars is almost ready for business outside Fig Garden Village's Whole Foods Monday, June 8, 2015 in Fresno, Calif.
A charging station for electric cars is almost ready for business outside Fig Garden Village's Whole Foods Monday, June 8, 2015 in Fresno, Calif. ezamora@fresnobee.com

Fresno’s Whole Foods Market and Fashion Fair Mall have added charging stations for electric vehicles, allowing shoppers to fuel up while filling their carts. The stations will be available for non-shoppers as well.

The charging stations at Fashion Fair are up and running, while those at Whole Foods Market are ready but need a final sign-off from Pacific Gas & Electric Co., which should come within the next few weeks, assistant manager Pedro Oceguera said.

There are two charging stations at the market in Fig Garden Village Shopping Center at 650 W. Shaw Ave., and groundwork has been laid for a third, Oceguera said. Whole Foods Market is setting a new standard by installing charging stations not just at the Fresno location but statewide, he said.

Oceguera said it took a few months to obtain city approval for building the stations, but construction only took three to four weeks.

There are two settings for the stations — the DC fast charger, which is up to 480 volts and can charge a car in under 30 minutes, and the Level 2 charger, which is 220 to 240 volts, he said.

The payment system for the stations is complicated, Oceguera said. An app needs to be downloaded to a phone that locates a charging station for users, then the program charges the consumer for using the station. The setup is similar to PayPal, he said.

PG&E spokesman Denny Boyles confirmed that the Fashion Fair Mall charging stations are open for public use. There are three parking spaces for cars to recharge, located between BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse and Shiekh Shoes.

NRG Energy, Inc. communications manager Jeremy Desel said the charging stations at Whole Foods Market and Fashion Fair Mall can charge any electric vehicle on the road.

The vehicles that can’t accept a DC fast charger, such as the Chevrolet Volt, can still use the lower-voltage Level 2 charger. And the slower Level 2 charger is still nine times faster than an ordinary outlet, he said.

“This isn’t your typical plug on the wall at the office or at your home,” Desel said.

Desel said a variety of payment plans are available through NRG’s EVgo (EV for electric vehicle) network, including one that avoids monthly fees and is pay-as-you-go. The price of the plans vary from market to market, so he could not give exact prices.

The State Treasurer’s office on Tuesday launched a $2 million program to provide incentives for small business owners and landlords in California to install charging stations.

A model developed by the Energy Commission in partnership with the California Pollution Control Financing Authority will offer a rebate of up to 15% of total costs for businesses that install charging stations.

With consumers dismissing electric vehicles as viable alternative to gas-powered cars because of concerns about their limited range, the state is looking to create a network of charging stations for their use, State Treasurer John Chiang said in a news release.

Other available charging stations can located through www.plugshare.com.

Sarah Anderson: (559) 441-6248; @Sarahsonofander

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