Thursday, March 17, 2011

Charge 'Er Up: GR's First Chevy Volt Pulls Into the Station

Remember the story I told you about the electric car charger at the Center of the Universe? Today we marked the first customer.

Consumers Energy was on hand to talk about its SmartStreet program; the following comes from their press release:

On the day celebrating the “wearing of the green,” Consumers Energy and other local collaborators marked a milestone in the “greening” of Grand Rapids: The arrival of the first locally owned plug-in electric vehicle at the utility’s public charging station.

This morning, local resident Merl Petzold plugged his new Chevy Volt into Consumers Energy’s free public charging station located along Lake Drive in the city’s East Hills neighborhood. Petzold’s visit helped officially dedicate the Coulomb Technologies ChargePoint America charging station. The station was installed in the parking lot shared by the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, Marie Catrib’s restaurant and several other businesses in the vibrant East Hills area. The Volt, General Motors first plug-in electric vehicle (PEV), is reaching Michigan showrooms this month.

The free charging station is the first public station installed in Grand Rapids, and is part of Consumers Energy’s innovative SmartStreet program in East Hills.

Merl Petzold was the chief engineer of energy and environmental affairs at Wyoming's 36th St GM plant, and he told me that so far he loves his Volt. Here is the story that ran when it was delivered to him just last week.

The wait has been long – 9 months, to be exact – but Merl Petzold will finally take a seat today in his new Chevrolet Volt.

Is he excited?

“You bet your life,” he said Friday, the night before seeing the car he’s dreamed of for weeks.

Petzold's Volt is the first in West Michigan, and one of just four allocated to be sold from Grand Rapids' Berger Chevrolet this model year.

Petzold, a General Motors retiree and self-proclaimed tree-hugger, was the first person to place a deposit on one of the state-of-the-art vehicles at Berger Chevrolet. Petzold said he made the decision in July, after years of driving a Honda Insight Hybrid.

When I arrived, the car was already plugged in and "filling up", as it were. Mr. Petzold spent the time talking with various reporters about his car, and he was kind enough to start it up for me so I could * not * hear it run. (the Volt is totally silent. It's almost eerie.) Very nice gentleman, very enthused about alternative energy. Chatted with the guy from Consumers, who told me they have plans for 90 charging stations for the area. Also talked to the rep from Berger about the training for technicians for these cars; definitely not something your local grease monkey is going to be able to tackle. Yet.

Was very glad to be there to see this bit of history. Years from now, if I'm playing "Grand Rapids Trivia" for fun and prizes and this question comes up, I will win. ;-)