Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sparse plug-ins for electric cars spark creativity

Steve Bernheim shows off his Corbin Sparrow fully electric auto in the drivewayAP – Steve Bernheim shows off his Corbin Sparrow fully electric auto in the driveway of his home in Edmonds, …

SEATTLE – Owning an electric vehicle requires more than global-cooling ambitions. It takes guile, planning, sharp vision, a silver tongue — and a 50-foot extension cord.

Steve Bernheim knows accessible outlets like a firefighter knows hydrants. He has to — his Corbin Sparrow runs only 25 miles on a charge.

"You do guerrilla charging where you locate these plugs," said Bernheim, an attorney who lives in the Seattle suburb of Edmonds. "I'm an expert at finding them."

While California has more than 500 public charging stations at parks, malls and grocery stores to serve electric vehicles that rolled out in the last decade, the network is still thin across the rest of the country, forcing drivers like Bernheim to get creative.

That may change as charging stations crop up in San Jose, Calif., Seattle and Portland, Ore. to serve early adopters and pave the way for a new breed of mass market plug-in cars.

"Every auto company in the world is developing all-electric or plug-in hybrids," said Zan Dubin Scott, a spokeswoman for Plug In America, a nonprofit advocacy group for electric car owners. "The utilities, municipalities and smart business people are seeing that this is the future."

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