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Electric car charging station opens in downtown Gainesville
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Dave Unruh wtih Metro Plug-In explains how the electric vehicle charging station in downtown Gainesville operates during a Tuesday unveiling ceremony. The charging station offers outlets for two cars to charge at once. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Electric car drivers now have a downtown Gainesville spot where they can juice up their vehicles.

The city officially opened a charging station Tuesday in the city’s Main Street Parking Lot off Jesse Jewell Parkway, between Main and Maple streets.

“I never thought I’d see the day where we would have total electric cars, but here we are, and it looks like it’s the wave of the future,” Mayor Danny Dunagan said.

For several months, Gainesville had looked at the charging station as a way to both serve electric vehicle drivers and encourage shoppers in the city’s core.

The idea is that because it takes an hour or more to restore a car to full charge, motorists can venture into the nearby square and check out stores and restaurants.

Officials have estimated that the charging station will have a negligible impact on the city’s power bill, perhaps somewhere between $30 and $50 per month.

“I think you’re really going to enjoy having electric vehicles come to the city,” said Cornelius Willingham, EV strategy and business development manager for Nissan, to city officials.

“I think so, too,” Dunagan said. “We’re really looking forward to it.”

The charging station has one pump with two 25-foot cables, so two cars can be served at one time. The station also has designated spaces where drivers can park while recharging.

Two Nissan Leafs were on display at the station, one owned by Gainesville resident Michael Lancaster and the other brought to the site by Kris Kazecki, sales and leasing consultant for Carriage Nissan in Gainesville.

“On a typical day, I can go anywhere I need to go and do anything I need to do and not spend a penny on gasoline,” Lancaster said. “And I’m not constantly looking for a place to charge. (The car) has enough range to get me where I need to go and get home.”

He has a charger at home that powers up the car overnight. It’s a slower charger than the one downtown, but chargers at Carriage Nissan and Carriage Kia dealerships off Browns Bridge Road can fully charge a vehicle in 15 minutes.

“We’ve got a lot of people coming in,” Kazecki said. “And all models are welcome there. It’s an EV community, so we’re not going to run anybody off.”

Electric charging stations also have popped up in the area at the University of North Georgia and the Kroger Marketplace at New Holland Market off Jesse Jewell and Limestone parkways.

One of the big concerns about electric vehicles is that drivers can travel only locally — a trip to the beach from Gainesville, for example, is out.

But industry officials said times are changing, with Georgia Power, Nissan and others looking to install fast-charge stations along key arteries.

“It’s already started,” said Dave Unruh, whose company, Metro Plug-in, installed the city’s charger.