Reporting from the Fujitsu Labs of America Technology Symposium 2010 on the smart grid.

Good stuff happens at these events, but sometimes the more interesting news is in the hallways.  I bumped into and spoke with the entrepreneurs behind early-stage EV charging station startup, 350Green -- CEO Mariana Gerzanych and President Tim Mason.

In their view, the biggest transition in the 100-year history of the auto industry will happen in the next 24 months, with most of the major automakers worldwide in some phase of EV development.  The challenge to this transition arises from the lack of a vehicle-charging infrastructure.

According to 350Green's website, only one of six cars in urban cities is stored in a garage -- which makes home-charging out of the question.  Cities, retailers and interstate road systems are going to have to build a new infrastructure of charge spots if EVs are going to go anywhere.  

Unlike startup Coulomb, which seeks to sell the charging station to a "host," 350Green's business plan has the company itself owning and operating the equipment at the grocery stores, malls, and other places where people park on a regular basis.  The startup installs and maintains the equipment, reducing some of the risk for the property owner, who would receive a five-percent revenue share after break-even.  Coulomb has a bit of a head start, but it's still very early days in this market.

Rather than charging by the kilowatt-hour, 350Green charges by the time or session and specializes in 480-volt fast charging.  Coulomb Technologies and Better Place also charge by time, adamant that they are not selling kilowatt-hours and trying to avoid looking like -- and being regulated like -- a utility

The basic subscription from 350Green has the customer topping off with off-peak power from their station plazas, which could incorporate solar power as well as energystorage

350Green is a partner in the eTec $99.8 million DOE grant to electrify the EV infrastructure in San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Phoenix/Tucson, and Nashville, and is "working closely with Nissan," according to the CEO.  They aspire to build 358 charging stations over the next four years.

The startup is also looking for a total of $35 million in funding to finance this venture, $5 million in private equity and $30 million in tax equity.

Types of EV Charging Schemes

Source: 350Green website

Level I charging typically uses a standard electrical outlet and a standard 3-prong plug with a GFCI located in the power supply cable within 12 inches of the plug.  Depending on the battery type and capacity, it can take from 8 to 30 hours to fully recharge a battery.  Several studies indicate that Level I charging shortens battery life and reduces performance for some battery types.

Level II charging uses a permanently wired and fastened station at a fixed location.  It requires ground-fault protection for users, a no-load make/break interlock (which prevents vehicle startup while charging takes place), and a safety breakaway for the cable and connector.  Depending on the battery type and capacity, Level II can recharge an EV in 2 to 6 hours.

Level III fast-fill chargers are able to recharge 50% of an EV’s capacity in 25 minutes or less.  A Level III system relies on an off-board charger that converts AC to DC.  Standardization is already in place in many regions.

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P.S. The "350" in the company's name refers to the 350ppm of CO2 that many scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide.