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Tom Harriman & Stephen King Talk Charging Stations

Stephen King isn't scared of new tech
Published: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 at 1:00 a.m.

Author Stephen King charges his wife's Chevrolet Volt in the City Parking Garage on Palm Avenue in Sarasota on Tuesday along side Tom Harriman of Harriman's Inc.

The King of Horror, who spends his winters on Casey Key, wheeled his Chevrolet Volt -- black, of course -- into the city of Sarasota's new Palm Avenue parking garage.

He pulled into one of four free electric-vehicle charging stations on the first floor of the 700-car garage, switched off his car, and plugged in the long orange extension cord draped on the wall next to the space.

On the roof of the building, a 10-kilowatt was generating much of the power for the garage, including the charging stations.

"I just love it because every time you do it, it is like saying to the oil cartel, 'Here, stick this in your eye,'" author Stephen King told the Herald-Tribune. "It is like a license to steal."

Author Stephen King and Tom Harriman talk with reporters about the new electric vehicle charging stations.

Right now, it is difficult and expensive to get your hands on one of the few brand-name electric cars that are just starting to show up -- the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, or Tesla. But judging from surging interest in the most fuel-efficient, gasoline-powered cars this spring, the charging stations at the parking garage and others planned by city government will not go unused for long.

"It really started in mid-to-late February, when gas prices became headlines," said Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at Edmunds.com, an online consumer automotive website. That demand also is reflected in Edmunds' web audience. "Interest in hybrids, electric vehicles, small cars -- all that has been increasing."

King, whose scary novels have made him one of the best-known celebrities in the world, does not do many interviews. But Tom Harriman, who installed the solar electric system for the city, talked the author into driving the family Volt into town to help highlight the availability of the charging stations, largely unused since the city opened the new garage in January.

"Right now, due to the lack of vehicles, Mr. King would be the first one to plug into the unit itself," Harriman said.

But Sarasota's Chris Sharek, another new electric car owner, actually plugged in his nearly identical black Chevy Volt a few minutes before King rolled up. Sharek paid just under $50,000 to get his hands on the car, which he had to special-order from New Jersey.

"Instead of spending another 40 grand on a Jeep, which I was ready to do, why not go ahead and get a car that has more technology and way better gas mileage?" Sharek said.

He and King compared notes on their vehicles while newspeople circled around for photos with the mayor at the informal gathering.

Governments, both local and federal, are encouraging electric vehicle use by subsidizing charging stations like the four in the garage -- just the first in a series that the city will install during the next year, said Sarasota Mayor Kelly Kirschner.

"We are looking at areas like the bayfront park by Marina Jack, the Whole Foods garage -- which will always be free parking, too -- and possibly the Lido Beach area and St. Armands," Kirschner said.

Early adopters like King are paying full list price of around $43,000 for their electric cars, plus extra fees for shipping and delivery.

"As prices come down and you have more competition," Kirschner said, "you'll see better pricing."

"Hopefully this is another differentiating feature that will show our citizens and visitors that our downtown is truly a unique place."

King bought the Volt from Chevrolet about a month ago as a birthday present for his wife and fellow author, Tabitha King.

"In a way I am sorry I gave it to her," he said, "because I like to drive it so much."

This story appeared in print on page D1
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