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Biogen Idec opens 10 electric car recharging stations with federal stimulus boost

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Local drug maker Biogen Idec is dedicating 10 electric car rechargers this morning at its facility in Research Triangle Park as part of the federal government's subsidization push for electric cars.

The number of rechargers represents a new standard for corporate offices in the area, with a half-dozen other Triangle companies planning to install 10 rechargers in the coming months. The feds are paying more than a third of the cost of the rechargers and the electric cars in the Triangle phase of the program.

Biogen Idec, which develops drugs for multiple sclerosis, is based in Weston, Mass., and employs about 900 people at its manufacturing facility in RTP. Currently four of those employees drive plug-in electric cars to work, which means that more than half of the new rechargers will not be immediately used.

Nearly $50,000 of the cost of the rechargers at Biogen Idec was offset by federal stimulus funds distributed by the Triangle J Council of Governments, a regional planning organization. Outdoor chargers typically cost between $10,000 and $20,000.

The Council is also helping subsidize electric chargers at a half-dozen other corporations, said Kathy Boyer, the Council's program manager for energy and environment.

To date, federal stimulus funds have subsidized about 35-40 rechargers in the area. In all, several hundred rechargers will be installed in the state, most of them with federal subsidies distributed to the Council, Duke Energy, Progress Energy and other organizations.

The electric vehicles are also heavily subsidized. The four EV drivers at Biogen Idec got their cars through a special program that paid them $7,500 to participate in a study of electric vehicle driving and charging habits. That incentive is on top of the $7,500 federal rebate for buying an electric car, bringing the total incentive to $15,000 and covering nearly half the list price of the vehicle.

The study, administered by Raleigh nonprofit Advanced Energy, is closed to new participants. It has filled up with 40 participants who will drive discounted Nissan Leaf Plug-in electric cars.

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About the blogger

John Murawski has been a full-time newspaper reporter since 1991, with stints at Legal Times and The Chronicle of Philanthropy (both in Washington, DC), The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Palm Beach Post (in South Florida) before arriving at the N&O in December 2004. At the N&O he covers energy (nuclear, coal, renewable, efficiency), hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking"), public utilities and health care. His beat includes PSNC Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, Duke Energy Progress, PowerSecure International, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Biogen Idec and others. He has also contributed more than 30 book reviews on topics spanning botany, history, science and religion. You can reach him at 919-829-8932 or e-mail him.