City residents can start charging their EV battery downtown next month, when electric car charging stations will be installed in three parking garages.

Each of the garages will have a single charging station, and it will take electric car users at most four hours to charge their cars to full capacity, according to New Haven Office of Sustainability environmental consultant Giovanni Zinn ’05. The effort to install the electric chargers is part of an initiative to encourage electric car use in the city and is being spearheaded by four local organizations: the United Illuminating Company, a Southern Connecticut utilities provider; the New Haven Parking Association; the Greater New Haven Clean City Coalition; and the city’s Office of Sustainability.

The city initially looked into the possibility of installing charging stations after UIC approached City Hall with the idea this past spring, Zinn said. For three weeks in July and August, the four organizations collected information on residents’ interest in electric cars. The organizations then decided to install chargers in the Union Station, Temple Street and Air Rights parking garages, which Zinn said were selected because they are large downtown parking structures and have electric systems that can support the chargers.

The program is part of creating a “green” New Haven, UIC Director of Corporate Communications Michael West said in an e-mail. He added that, in the long term, New Haven citizens will be able to reduce their carbon footprint by driving electric cars, ultimately benefitting the environment.

According to a report released earlier this month by the state’s Electric Vehicles Infrastructure Council, Connecticut wants to have 25,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2020.

“We want to be a national leader in this emerging industry,” Gov. M. Jodi Rell said in a Sept. 2 press release.

New Haven is playing a part in this statewide effort by creating an infrastructure for electric cars and will ideally become a regional hub for electric cars in the Northeast, Zinn said, estimating that there may be close to a dozen electric cars in use in the city.

“Looking five to 10 years down the line, [electric cars] are where the industry is headed,” Zinn said.

The city will monitor usage of the ev bays for several months after their installation, West said. If the chargers are being used, the city will consider installing more in more garages.