As gas prices sustain some of the highest marks in U.S. history, the demand for alternative energy methods is increasing. The Pima Association of Governments’ Tucson Clean Cities program, in partnership with ECOtality, Inc. is working to provide a solution by continuing to install electric-vehicle Blink charging stations across the region in project “Ready America”.

The Town of Marana was one of the latest beneficiaries of the project, receiving three charging stations last month. The Town’s first EV charging station was installed at Ora Mae Harn Park, with Crossroads Park and the Marana Operations Center receiving stations soon after.

“The Town is happy to be part of this regional program,” said Rodney Campbell, spokesman for the Town of Marana. “We believe in the value of a sustainable environment and think these charging stations will be very popular for people who live in and visit our community.”

The project, which began last year, sets the region to receive about 240 charging stations in total. Currently, about 100 chargers have been installed.

The Town of Oro Valley was one of the first Tucson areas to receive charging stations last June, when four were installed at Town Hall, 11000 N. La Cañada Dr. More charging stations have since been installed throughout Pima County near various businesses and high-traffic locations.

“Pima Association of Governments Tucson Regional Clean Cities Coalition is proud to be a part of the largest deployment of electric vehicle infrastructure in the nation’s history,” said Clean Cities Coalition manager Colleen Crowninshield.

ECOtality is paying for the project’s installation and operating costs with a federal stimulus grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The total value of the project is estimated at $230 million, with about half that amount coming from the stimulus grant, and half coming from private investors.

Tucson was selected as one of the initial markets to test the EV charging stations. About 8,000 electric vehicle drivers in 18 cities are being used to collect data for the project, allowing ECOtality to to measure the project’s effectiveness. Residential chargers were installed free of charge for project participants.

The timing of the project closely coincides with the 2011 release of the all-electric Nissan Leaf and Ford Fusion in Tucson. Tucson was selected as one of 11 initial launch cities for the Leaf, and one of 18 other cities in late 2011 for the Fusion.

Crowninshield said she thinks the project will have more car buyers considering electric.

“I absolutely expect electric-vehicle sales to increase,” she said. “A lot of big manufacturers are showing an increased interest in these types of vehicles.”

The experimental project is set to end in December. Beyond December, the infrastructures in which the charging stations are located will have the option of retaining the charging stations with only maintenance costs.

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