Electric vehicle owners in Ashland could be juicing up their rides as early as next week at two newly installed charging stations downtown.

Electric vehicle owners in Ashland could be juicing up their rides as early as next week at two newly installed charging stations downtown.

The charging units are located in the public parking garage on Hargadine Street and at the public parking lot on the corner of Pioneer Street and Lithia Way, but are not in service.

The level-two chargers, which take about two to four hours to charge a drained car, could be ready to go as early as next Friday, said Adam Hanks, a project manager for the City of Ashland.

ECOtality, the San Francisco-based electric transportation research and development firm partnered with the city, will need to install research software on the chargers before they go live, he said. Also, the city will need to install a transformer in the Lithia lot to support the pedestal-style unit there.

"We'll have some stuff soon, but they still don't have any juice to them, which is pretty key," Hanks said, who has an inspector scheduled today to look at the unit installed by Medford-based Pacific Electric Contractors in the lot off Lithia Way, Wednesday.

Karen McClintock, of Ashland, owns a 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid and was thrilled to hear the charging stations downtown are nearly complete.

"We're trying to be a zero-emissions family," McClintock said, speaking of her husband Nick Smith. "He rides the bus or his bike most days to go to work in Medford. "… You don't have to be in your thirties to make it work."

McClintock, who works as a psychologist in Medford and Ashland, declined to provide her age, but said she was getting close to retirement.

The couple can make a few trips through Ashland in the Prius, whose battery will produce sustainable propulsion for about 15 miles before it switches to gas, which McClintock hasn't bought in over a month, she said.

"If we were going to the Shakespeare festival or something we could definitely plug," she said.

The charging units will have electric vehicle-only parking spaces in front of them, Hanks said.

ECOtality was awarded about $120 million in grant money by the U.S. Department of Energy to manage the EVproject, which Ashland's chargers are a part of.

Another $110 million in donations was matched by various partners in the project, leaving $230 million for ECOtality's plan to install 14,000 chargers in six states and the District of Columbia by the end of 2012.

The purpose of the project is to research and analyze the potential market for electric vehicles and charging stations in the U.S., according to the company's website.

Ashland's soon-to-come downtown units are being installed in step with the state's successful effort of developing eight charging stations throughout Southern Oregon's Interstate 5 corridor, by way of a similar federal grant. One is located at the Texaco at 2371 Ashland St., adjacent to I-5 exit 14.

Central Point's Chevron gas station at I-5 exit 33, has another of those eight units, which McClintock's husband has used, she said. Their Prius can barely make it to Medford on a full charge.

Whether the air conditioner, windshield wipers or anything else in the car is on affects how long the battery will drive the vehicle, she said.

A pricing model is still being developed for Ashland's downtown chargers, Hanks said, but there may be no cost for charging a car initially, as is the case at some of the other ECOtality project sites. Other stations charge $2 or $3 for a charge, and the firm has member options available on its website, www.ecotality.com.

McClintock's Prius plugs straight into the wall at home, and pulls a drawn-out but full charge, she said, estimating that the cost of installing a quick-charge unit at her home would run about $900.

Most of the cost of installing the chargers in downtown Ashland is being paid for by ECOtality. The company agreed to pay up to $2,250 for the installation of the pedestal charging unit, and up to $1,500 for the wall-mount unit in the parking garage. The city's bill for the project ended up slightly more than $2,000, Hanks said.

ECOtality will pay for the electricity its chargers use, and split the revenue earned from them with the city, he said.

If requested to do so, ECOtality will remove the charging units at anytime during the project period at no cost to the city, and the city will not be responsible for servicing the equipment, he said.

"It was a slam dunk for the city," said Hanks. "If anything, for people in town with electric vehicles, it will add a little convenience to their lives, and a guaranteed parking spot."

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.