State and local officials debuted a new solar-powered electric vehicle charging station in Bethesda Monday. (ATRsolartech)

It’s Maryland’s newest “green” innovation — a Solar Power Pole. It’s the state’s first high-efficiency, sun-tracking electric vehicle solar charging station. The 1,410-watt, six-panel solar array, compact enough to fit in a grassy planter in the middle of a parking lot, will charge two electric vehicles at a time.

The installation of the station in Bethesda now means there are at least a half-dozen electric vehicle charging stations in Montgomery County.

The pole was unveiled with much fanfare Monday, during a mid-morning ceremony featuring Gov. Martin O’Malley, U.S. Department of Transportation Deputy Assistant Secretary Joel Szabat, county executives from Montgomery and Howard counties and a bevy of green-minded officials and boosters. Its introduction is part of Maryland’s effort to show it is a national leader in green technology innovation.

The Solar Power Pole is manufactured by Columbia-based Advanced Technology & Research Corp. (ATR).

The charging station works a bit like a gas station. Drivers of electric vehicles can pull up, swipe a plastic card and plug in their vehicles to be charged. Right now, drivers can charge their vehicles for free — but eventually users of the Bethesda station will pay for the electricity they use, said Tripp Aubinoe III, who purchased the Solar Power Pole and owns the site on which it sits.

Aubinoe said the station’s location — along Old Georgetown Road just north of the Wildwood Shopping Center — is a convenient spot. Drivers can run errands at nearby shops while their cars charge.

Rob Lundahl, vice president, automation systems for ATR, said an hour of charging will yield roughly 20 miles of travel time for most vehicles. Lundahl said the cost for the Solar Power Pole is in the $20,000 range.

Related stories
EV charging around the region