Most EVs can charge off of a 120 volt standard outlet, but it will take eight long hours. Dedicated 240 volt charging stations can cut the time to less than three hours.  (Source: GM)

The U.S. government, along with state governments will give free charging stations to the first 4,400 Chevy Volt customers.  (Source: Brandy Baker/The Detroit News)

Ford, by contrast is paying its own way, offering free charging stations to the first 5,000 buyers of its 2012 Ford Focus Electric. However, its customers may still benefit from taxpayer funded initiatives to install chargers at public locations (or perhaps at a friend's house who owns a Volt).  (Source: Autoblog Green)

Michigan also has joined Wisconsin in a pledge to devote taxpayer money to fight human-driven carbon emissions, which it feels are responsible for global warming.  (Source: OurCommunity)
Both proposals will likely provoke a bit of controversy

Electric vehicles look like the vehicles of the future.  With the evolution of battery chemistries over the last decade, batteries can provide the same amount of power in a package about a quarter of the size (or less) and cost a quarter as much (or less).  With further improvements in store, it looks like it won't be long before customers can trade the pump for the plug.

However, before we get there, one critical challenge for the industry is charging.  For first generation GM, Ford, and Nissan EVs, set to hit the market this year and next, charging is a slow process.  There's also a relative lack of charging stations at public locations.

Michigan is aiming to change that with the deployment of 280 charging stations at homes, business, and community locations in the Dearborn, Flint, Ann Arbor and Detroit-metro area. 

The program costs $37M USD in taxpayer funding, $15M USD of which comes from a federal stimulus grant.  The charging stations will be provided free of costs to the individuals or organizations who have their proposals approved. 

The program is part of a larger national-scale program, ChargePoint America, aimed at deploying 4,600 charging stations nationwide. Among the goals there is to offer free charging stations to the first 4,400 2011 Chevy Volt EV customers.  GM is not paying for the new chargers itself.  Ford Motor Co., by contrast, is not relying on taxpayer handouts quite as much and will be shouldering the cost of offering free charging stations to the first 5,000 purchasers of the 2012 Ford Focus Electric.

Coulomb Technologies of Campbell, California (which will provide Ford's chargers) and San Francisco, California-based ECOtality are the primary players in this market.  Coulomb's charging stations cost between $1,700 USD and $5,700 USD, depending on the regional availability.  That cost doesn't include installation.

The good news is that unlike the EV batteries themselves, which will see their performance degrade over time,  the chargers should last for decades.  Typically connectors in the average U.S. household use 120 volts of electric potential, but the EV chargers use 240 volts, in order to pump electricity into the batteries faster.

For those who don't get a station in time, some electricity providers, like utility DTE Energy Co.'s Detroit Edison unit, have offered charging stations at a discounted rate ($2,500).  Customers can opt out of a dedicated charging station entirely and use their standard 120 volt outlets, but this dramatically raises charge time and mandates more careful planning.  Charge time on a 120 volt outlet for the Volt is estimated to be 8 hours, while it will be less than 3 hours with the 240 volt charging stations.

In related news, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment Director Rebecca A. Humphries and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Matthew J. Frank signed a pledge vowing for the two midwestern states to join together in an effort to fight global warming.

Some scientists today believe that the Earth is currently in a warming trend, and believe humans are causing that trend by outputting carbon from fossil fuels and livestock digestion byproducts into the atmosphere.  Carbon dioxide, methane, and other carbon-gases have been shown to trap heat, but no one can say precisely how much carbon the earth can reabsorb and the precise "forcing" or heating effect per unit of carbon that stays in the atmosphere.

None the less, advocates of fossil fuel reduction say that the dangers of global warming are too compelling to risk inaction while the research refines.  Michigan and Wisconsin under the new plan will work to develop joint actions plans to fight warming, including proposing taxpayer-funded projects and programs designed to fight global warming.

Ms. Humphries states, "As we move forward in addressing how climate change will impact our natural resources and environment, it is important that we recognize that these impacts are shared regionally.  By coordinating efforts with Wisconsin, we can be even more informed of how the Great Lakes watershed will be affected by climate change."

Despite its rich landscape -- a source for tourism -- the Great Lakes states have been hit hard by the recession and the decline of the U.S. auto industry.  Michigan in particular is in severe shape, with the nation's highest unemployment and long-term unemployment.  Thus any plan to devote additional tax resources to fight global warming will likely have to be flown under the radar to avoid the wrath of the local populus.

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)

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