Carolinas seeking role In plug-In electric vehicle market

By Danny King,

(June 2010) Will Tobacco Road become an electric-vehicle superhighway?

That's what one key Duke Energy executive reportedly said earlier this week, calling North Carolina's major cities potential hotbeds for electric vehicle demand.

Hmmmm. Evs on the NASCAR circuit?

Mike Rowland, Duke Energy's director of advanced customer technology, said Charlotte and Raleigh will be among the dozen or so U.S. cities where EVs will get the most demand, the Charlotte Business Journal reported on June 11.

Rowland said Charlotte-based Duke Energy later this year will start building out its own car-charging infrastructure as companies such as Nissan and General Motors start selling their Leaf battery-electric and Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-in electric vehicles to the American public, the newspaper reported, citing Rowland's panel appearance at an event sponsored by the Electric Drive Transportation Association.

But North Carolina isn't alone in the Southeast. Neighboring South Carolina also is receiving attention from plug-in electric vehicle advocates.

AeroVironment Inc.,- the California-based company that earlier this year reached agreements with automakers Nissan and Think to deploy electric-vehicle charging stations - said last week that it will work with the South Carolina state government and utilities on developing a network of EV-charging stations across that state.

While lacking the green reputation of regions such as the San Francisco Bay Area and Portland, Oregon, North Carolina's so-called Research Triangle, with universities such as Duke, University of North Carolina and North Carolina State, is known for its tech-heavy population, consumers who may be drawn to EVs.

South Carolina's attractiveness comes largely from the work of the nonprofit Plug In Carolina organization, which is backed by the state's major utilities, and the presence in the state of a substantial automotive parts and components industry.

It's not all cut and dried, though.

The Carolinas weren't part of the package when Bay Area-based EV-charging station maker Coulomb Technologies earlier this month announced the nine U.S. regions where it will roll out 4,600 stations as part of a $37 million program with the U.S. Energy Dept. and automakers such as GM and Ford.