Food store creates buzz by installing charging stations for electric cars
The first public electric vehicle charging station at a Baton Rouge retail store will allow customers to charge their cars for free at the Whole Foods Market on Corporate Boulevard.
“It will be a vital part of attaining and maintaining EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) air quality standards,” Jamie Setze, executive director of the Capital Region Planning Commission, said during a news conference Friday.
Mayor-President Kip Holden, a former asthmatic and the father of a child who has asthma, said air pollution has a direct impact on people’s lives. He said the Baton Rouge area has struggled for years to meet federal ozone pollution standards, and although things have improved, reducing vehicle pollution will help the area meet more restrictive standards.
Ozone pollution isn’t released into the air. Instead, it created when industrial, vehicle exhaust and other pollution mixes in the air during hot and sunny days. When there is little wind to dissipate the pollution, it can accumulate in an area and cause problems for people, especially those already struggling with asthma or other breathing problems.
Holden applauded Whole Foods Market at 7529 Corporate Blvd. for stepping up to be a leader in alternative fuels for the area and encouraged the public to do the same.
“Be an ambassador for new types of energy,” Holden said.
In 2011, Entergy donated two electric vehicle charging stations to LSU, but those are for LSU faculty, staff and students to use. Some car dealers in Baton Rouge also have charging stations, according to the station locator at PlugInLSU.org.
Whole Foods Market already has charging stations at one of its New Orleans stores and plans more at other stores in the New Orleans area. Nationwide, Whole Foods Markets have 70 electric vehicle charging stations in 27 cities with most of those located in Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Austin.
With the two new stations in Baton Rouge, Louisiana Whole Food Markets now offer four stations for customers with the other two at the Arabella Station store in New Orleans. There also are plans to build charging stations at the store’s Veterans Boulevard location in New Orleans soon, said Kristina Bradford, Louisiana community and medial relations for Whole Foods Market.
“It’s part of our mission. It’s part of who we area as a company,” she said.
Jeff Cantin, owner and president of Solar Alternatives company that installed the charging station, said most cars that would come to the charging station wouldn’t be on empty when they get there, so they could recharge a third of the battery in an hour.
“Electric vehicles have benefits that are so valuable to our community,” said Lauren Stuart, executive director of Greater Baton Rouge Clean Cities Coalition.
Later in the afternoon, Stuart announced that the coalition is expanding its work promoting alternative fuels to the entire state, except for the greater New Orleans area, which already has a long-standing organization focusing on the issue. To reflect the change, the Greater Baton Rouge Clean Cities Coalition will now be known as Louisiana Clean Fuels and will have a new website at www.louisianacleanfuels.org on Sept. 23. Louisiana Clean Fuels will continue to work with the Southeast Louisiana Clean Fuels Partnership which represents the greater New Orleans area of Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist and Tangipahoa parishes, Stuart said.
Both organizations work with a number of local, state and federal partners including the state Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Program.
The Louisiana Clean Fuels will continue to focus on improving air quality, promote alternative fuels and help expand economic development through the increasing use of alternative fuels.
Stuart said the new larger geographical scope will allow the organization to better focus on getting fuel stations developed along major highways of the state.
“Corridor development is a regional effort,” Stuart said. “By having this broader territory we can work on this larger focus.”