The former CEO of electric-car charging network 350 Green pleaded guilty last week to fraudulently obtaining federal grants intended to be used for installation of public charging stations, notably in the Chicago area.

The original 2011 announcement of the grants came with large fan-fare, but the company never remotely delivered on what was promised.

Timothy Mason may get up to 5 years in prison; his former co-CEO, Mariana Gerzanych, who cooperated with the FBI, has been ordered to pay a $10,000 fine and complete 200 hours of community service.  

DON'T MISS: Electric-Car Charging Station Operator 350Green Charged With Fraud

U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman noted that Gerzanych was getting a remarkable concession for her cooperation, and that she had never seen the prosecution choose to defer their case in such a proceeding.

Constant schedule delays and reports of unpaid subcontractors originally led to the FBI’s investigation.

The agency found evidence that 350 Green had written fake checks to show to the government as evidence that its charging stations were underway.

2012 Ford Focus Electric, New York City, April 2012

2012 Ford Focus Electric, New York City, April 2012

The guilty plea came as the prosecution planned to provide evidence that 350 Green received $1.5 million dollars in federal grants to which it was not entitled.  

According to a report in The Chicago Tribune, 350 Green once counted on tax credits to account for 50 percent of its funding.

Inspired by the expected growth, Ford and Nissan pushed ahead their local introduction of electric cars anticipating the 280 promised charging stations.

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At the time when the company could no longer pay its bills, only 169 of the 280 planned charging stations had been installed and reports are that some weren’t fully functional.

In the end, the contract was turned over to JNS Power & Control Systems to complete, with the DC fast-chargers now operated by NRG eVgo.

The challenge of funding public charging infrastructure has led many analysts to suggest there may be few businesses models for providing charging services at a profit.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car at EVgo fast-charging station, Newport Centre, Jersey City, NJ

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car at EVgo fast-charging station, Newport Centre, Jersey City, NJ

This applies especially to 240-volt Level 2 charging, which takes several hours to recharge an electric car entirely.

Whether there's a business model for DC fast charging is still in debate; EVgo, for one, believes there is and currently sells 30 minutes of fast charging at its growing network for roughly $11.

That can be far more expensive than home charging, depending on the car, the speed of its onboard charger, and the state of battery charge—although to many drivers, it may be a reasonable expense during long road trips in their electric cars.

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This year will see the start of construction on the first elements of the 10-year, $2 billion electric-car charging infrastructure to be installed and owned by Volkswagen as part of the settlement of its diesel emission scandal.

What fees VW levies for those charging sessions remain to be determined, but along with network provider ChargePoint and now-privately owned EVgo, its efforts will be watched with great interest by electric-car advocates ... and, of course, owners.

-Matt Pilgrim

[hat tip: Ryan van Zuylen]


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