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Monday, May 2, 2016

Vehicle charger rarely used but open

Friday, August 23, 2013

(Photo)
The Blink electric vehicle charging station at Shelbyville city hall has seen very little use since being installed last summer, and now the green tech company behind laying down the infrastructure for the new vehicles indicated they may file for bankruptcy.
(T-G Photo by Brian Mosely)
The company that installed Shelbyville's electric vehicle charger last year says it will continue to maintain it -- even though the firm may soon go broke.

But according to city officials, the charging station was very rarely used.

Last week, ECOtality Inc. stated in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) it might file for bankruptcy, saying they have failed to "attain sales volumes" of the charging stations to "support the Company's operations in the second half of 2013."

The company also said it was having problems finding financing.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) suspended stimulus payments to the firm, half of the company's workforce has been laid off, and investors have filed a class action lawsuit against ECOtality, alleging that executives misled them about its financial health, according to the Washington Free Beacon.

ECOtality had planned to install two of the Blink charging stations last year -- at city hall and the airport -- but wiring issues prevented the Bomar Field location.

It was part of the EV Project -- an effort to install infrastructure for electric vehicles in "the Tennessee Triangle," described by the company as a 425-mile stretch of interstate highway connecting Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga.

According to an e-mail the city received last Friday from the company, "despite the current challenges ECOtality (the parent company of Blink) is facing, the needs of our drivers are paramount to us. We will continue to operate the Blink Network and maintain our Blink chargers until further notice."

Little use

City manager Jay Johnson told the T-G "there are no local funds in this project," with Shelbyville reimbursed for any use of the charging station.

But the number of people using the charger since it was installed last year appears to have been quite low.

In the month of June, Shelbyville was only reimbursed for $5.50 worth of charges, according to city records. Personnel at city hall also say they can only remember two electric cars making a stop for a charge.

According to city recorder Vickie Haskins, a single charge costs somewhere around $1.25, and in June, the company asked to amend its agreement so that the city would receive quarterly payments via electronic deposit instead of a paper check. ECOtality had previously been paying the city on a monthly basis.

History

The city council agreed in 2010 to sign a letter of intent with ECOtality North America to participate in the EV Project, which the company touted at the time as "the largest deployment of electric vehicles and charge infrastructure in history."

The non-binding letter was considered "an expression of intent" to participate in the EV Project as a charging site host, but was not a formal agreement. In late 2011, council members signed off on a municipal license agreement to bring the charging stations to Shelbyville.

ECOtality previously said it would install over 15,000 vehicle charging stations nationwide in conjunction with launches of the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt as part of the EV project. It had planned to install 2,350 240-volt chargers, 125 solar-assisted TVA SMART Stations and 60 DC fast chargers in Tennessee.