November 18, 2010 / 6:42 PM / 7 years ago

UPDATE 1-NRG invests $10 mln in Texas car-charging network

* NRG to offer car-charging service at fixed monthly rate

* NRG eVgo network rollout to start in Houston in 2011

HOUSTON, Nov 18 (Reuters) - NRG Energy (NRG.N) plans to invest $10 million to build a comprehensive charging system in Houston for electric vehicles next year, NRG Chief Executive David Crane said on Thursday.

Crane said the debut of new electric vehicle models in the next year made the time right to launch NRG’s branded “eVgo” network to help “close the decision gap” for buyers debating the purchase of an electric vehicle (EV) versus a conventional gasoline-fueled car.

The network will offer Houston-area EV owners access to home charging and fast-charging public stations located at major retailers, employers and along highways for fixed charges ranging from $49 to $89 per month for the first three years.

“It’s all about convenience,” Crane said.

NRG plans to expand the network in other major Texas cities and across the United States as electric vehicle use grows.

“One of the huge advantages the electric vehicle has over other alternative energy vehicles -- such as hydrogen or compressed natural gas -- is that the infrastructure for electric-car fueling already exists.” Crane said. “It’s called the home electric system.”

“The service station of the future is your garage and all we need to do to extend that to the transportation system is the last three feet of extension cord in your garage,” Crane said.

NRG, which is the second-largest power generator in Texas and one of the largest electric retailers in the state’s deregulated market, has agreements to work with automakers Nissan NorthAmerica (7201.T) and Aptera. It’s also working with retailers like Best Buy Co Inc, Walgreens and others to site its public charging stations, Crane said.

NRG will also work with competing Texas electric retailers, including TXU Energy and Centrica’s Direct Energy, as it rolls out the car-charging network, Crane said.

Transportation accounts for one-quarter of America’s greenhouse gas emissions and 40 percent of Houston’s nitrogen oxides emissions, NRG said

Using EVs “fueled” by Texas’ mix of nuclear, wind, coal and natural gas-fired generation will help reduce emissions from gas-powered vehicles, NRG said.

Texas’ wind energy resource, which tends to produce more electricity at night, is viewed as a good match to supply the equipment used to charge EV batteries overnight.

Reporting by Eileen O'Grady; Editing by David Gregorio

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