Md. Firm Offers Plug-In Points For Electric Cars

A Maryland entrepreneur is setting up places where city dwellers can plug in their electric cars. Mahi Reddy's company, Sema Connect, wants to sell hookups to hotels, apartment complexes, office buildings and other businesses.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

One big problem with owning an electric car for anyone who doesn't have a garage or a parking space with an outlet nearby is where to plug in.

NPR's Elizabeth Shogren talked with an entrepreneur in Maryland who's building systems where city-dwelling electric car drivers can plug in.

ELIZABETH SHOGREN: California already has a bunch of public and private electric vehicle charging stations. Many of them are free. But if you live anywhere else, your options are very limited. With the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf due to hit the streets at the end of the year, a handful of small companies are trying to change that.

Mahi Reddy's company, SemaConnect, already is starting to sell hookups. He wants to sell them to hotels, apartment complexes, office buildings and other businesses for electric car drivers to use.

Mr. MAHI REDDY (CEO, SemaConnect): This could be installed on the street, which means as you park on the street, you can plug into this.

SHOGREN: But to do so, you'd have to have something that looks like a credit card.

Mr. REDDY: So we would give you a little smart card, and every time you wave it in front of one of these devices, it recognizes that. And that will be linked to your credit card account, and kind of like E-ZPass, it would charge your credit card.

SHOGREN: The technology does this by metering how much electricity you use and then connecting wirelessly to the Web. Reddy's devices cost about $2,500 to install. Some higher-voltage, quick-charging stations can cost 10 times that much. But Reddy says companies will be able to make up the investment by charging for the power. It's not clear yet what the going rate will be to charge up.

Elizabeth Shogren, NPR News.

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