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High-tech charging stations are set to keep electric cars rolling

Eleven stations have opened in Burbank and are free of cost until July 1.

March 27, 2012|By Mark Kellam, mark.kellam@latimes.com

Eleven charging stations for electric cars now are up and running in downtown Burbank. City officials hope they will spark interest among drivers of the high-tech cars to patronize the business district. Drivers can even be sent a text message when the cars are fully charged.

Use of the stations is free until July 1. After that, the cost will be $2 an hour, but the texts will remain a free perk.

Drivers started plugging into the stations immediately after they were installed, and they have gradually become more popular, officials say.

On average, five cars are charged a day, with each session lasting about two hours, said, Bruce Hamer, smart grid program manager for Burbank Water and Power, which installed the stations.

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The first two stations were unveiled in December, Hamer said, adding that the last two stations went online on Valentine’s Day.

Two stations are operating at each of the following locations: 201 E. Magnolia Blvd., 327 N. Pass Ave. and 120, 133 and 240 E. Orange Grove Ave.

One station is in the parking lot of the city’s Community Services Building, 150 N. Third St.

The utility installed the stations with help from a portion of a $20-million, four-year smart grid grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, Hamer said.

Directional signs for the stations are in the works, and at some point, drivers may be able to make reservations, Hamer said.

Until then, station availability in Burbank, as well as throughout the country, can be viewed at www.chargepointamerica.com, Hamer said, where users can also download a smart phone application.

The Downtown Burbank Partnership, meanwhile, is hoping that the convenience of the charging stations will attract more shoppers.

The partnership plans to promote the stations through a marketing campaign that will include brochures and social media, said Gail Stewart, the city’s business district manager.

“More and more people are getting alternative-fuel cars, so they can drive down and charge their car — and charge their credit card,” she said.

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