What does British Petroleum, one of the most-hated corporate villains in the past twenty years do to become a little more loved by environmentalists? 

Allow a network of electric car charging stations to be installed at its filling stations.  

But while there are more than 11,000  BP owned gas stations nationwide, the partnership announced last week will only see 45 of its filling stations get kitted out with electric vehicle chargers. 

Ecotality’s Blink DC Fast Charge stations, capable of providing a full recharge to cars like the 2011 Nissan Leaf in under 30 minutes will be installed in select BP and ARCO filling stations in in Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington and Tennessee. It is hoped these fast chargers will be operational as early as March 2011.

2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

The trial scheme, which BP is hoping will offer a test and evaluation platform for future installations in gas-stations nationwide, is part of the EV-Project, an initiative aimed to provide the infrastructure needed to support the growing electric car industry. 

Earlier this month, the EV-Project announced that Best Buy would be installing Blink Level 2 charging stations made by Ecotality at select stores throughout the EV-Project’s key markets. 

While the BP-sited direct-current chargers may offer new electric car drivers a familiar surrounding to fill up,  we’re not sure anyone will relish the thought of waiting at a smelly, noisy gas station while their all-electric car charges - even if it only takes 30 minutes. 

It is fortunate then, that the Ecotality Blink DC Fast Chargers are equipped with that in mind. Fitted with a 42 inch LCD display, Ecotality boasts that the chargers can provide an optional venue for media and advertising. 

Even with that in mind, we can’t quite see electric car owners parking at the local BP gas station and catching up on the latest episode of Glee while their all electric car charges. 

What they may make use of however, is the smart-interconnectivity that Ecotality have engineered into their charge stations. Providing web-based interactivity, smart phone applications and pre-pay options, most users are likely to find a nearby coffee shop to to await a fully charged notification in. 

Is it a just a publicity stunt by BP, or are the chargers really useful? 

EcoTality Fast Charge Render

EcoTality Fast Charge Render

It’s true that the charging points are unlikely to be used by daily commuters. Since every mainstream electric-only car due to hit the market this year has a range of at least 100 miles in ideal conditions most drivers won’t need to recharge in the course of an average day. 

But for the occasional long-distance trip, or for really hectic days these charging points may have a limited appeal to electric car drivers who really do need a fast-refill for their car while they enjoy lunch or a coffee. 

Such fast-charge stations are best used as occasional solutions for the need to charge. As Nissan has previously confirmed, repeated fast-charging can seriously reduce the life-expectancy of your electric car’s battery pack. 

In other words, use with caution. Oh, and don’t inhale the petrol fumes.