As I stand in the small parking lot behind Positive Energy’s solar electric systems on a recent Friday morning, I begin to feel guilty about laughing as hard as I am.
“Look at how fast theirs is spinning!” Regina Wheeler, CEO of Positive Energy, Inc. points out to me. “I want to bang on their door and shout, ‘You need us.’”
Wheeler and I are comparing the electric meters of two adjacent businesses—one on the electric grid and one receiving power from the first and only solar-powered electric car-charging station in Santa Fe.
The installation represents the cutting edge in America’s effort to halt its dependency on oil.
“Albuquerque has three car-charging stations, but they’re all on the grid,” Wheeler explains. “We’re committed to the future.”
Since its ribbon-cutting ceremony on the summer solstice, June 23, Wheeler estimates that Positive Energy’s charging station sees about four hours of use a day—and currently is completely free to use. The model is intended to mimic a gas station, in that the plug resembles a pump and the solar panels themselves create a shade spot. A short charge gives customers a boost to their car batteries, roughly five miles’ worth of travel.
And it’s fast: “Someone can plug in their car, shop at Whole Foods and, when they’re done, it’s ready to go,” Wheeler says.
The energetic CEO speaks of places in the country where stretches of highway advertise an electric-car charging station every 50 miles or so, “really completing the cycle.”
She brings her support of electric cars home by pressing on a media-centric nerve—the economy. “The cost of an electric car over the lifetime of the vehicle is actually cheaper than a gas car,” she says.
So with electric car sales on track to increase five-fold from 2011, the vernacular may quickly drop the fossil-fuel modifier into, “I’m going to the station to buy a soda.”
stations in New Mexico
1: solar-powered electric-car charging
station in New Mexico
7 hours: time needed for full charge
20 minutes: time for top-off charge
10,064: number of electric cars sold in US in 2011
62,400: projected number of electric cars sold in US in 2012
$42,876: total cost of ownership over the lifetime of a four cylinder mid-size vehicle
$34,995: total cost of ownership over the lifetime of a battery-electric vehicle with a 100-mile range