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Firms Develop Faster EV Battery Charger

September 12, 1997|DONALD W. NAUSS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DETROIT — Charging an electric vehicle might one day become nearly as easy as filling up at the corner gas station, but it may also be more expensive.

That's the gist of an announcement Thursday by Monrovia-based Aerovironment and Ford Motor Co. that they plan to commercialize a fast-charge system that can re-energize a battery pack in 20 minutes or less.

It now takes six to eight hours to recharge a nearly depleted battery.

Making fast charging readily available would be a big step in overcoming the limitations of electric vehicles--limited range and the long time it takes to "refuel."

But fast charging is unlikely to become widespread any time soon, partly because of the high cost. Each fast charger, about the size of a gas pump and designed to be installed at refueling sites, costs $35,000.

A fast-power recharge will also cost customers about double what they now pay for a gas fill-up. And some electric vehicles--notably General Motors Corp.'s EV-1, the only factory-built electric vehicle being marketed to consumers--would have to be refitted or redesigned to be compatible with the fast-charge system.

"It's not going to happen next week," said John Wallace, director of Ford's alternative fuels program. "But this is a useful and important step."

GM will unveil its unique system in December. Chrysler Corp. is also working on one with a Canadian firm.

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