No-Charge Chargers Promote Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles (EVs) represent a miniscule share of the transportation market, but interest in them is growing as more learn about their earth- and wallet-friendly benefits. Plymouth State University and the New Hampshire Electric Co-op (NHEC) have teamed up to make it easier for those considering switching from gas-powered cars and trucks. Two EV chargers are now available on campus and, thanks to NHEC, the installation came at no cost, and, thanks to PSU, the charging is free as well.

As the environmental and economic benefits of EVs become better known, the number and location of chargers has emerged as a crucial limiting factor. EV promoters know that we have a long way to go to match gas stations’ ubiquity and are making concerted efforts to close the gap.

“Placing two electric vehicle chargers on campus shows our commitment to encouraging the availability of alternative fuels for transportation in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire and northern New England,” says Physical Plant Project Manager Walter Durack.

“The partnership between our Physical Plant Team and the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative is a great one,” adds Brian Eisenhauer, director of PSU’s Office of Sustainability. “Establishing electric vehicle charging stations on campus is a solid example of our collaborative efforts to address sustainability issues on our campus and in our community and provides real-world examples that we can share with our students.”

Alicia Melanson coordinates NHEC’s EV charging station program and is pleased with this new development. “We’ve been working with PSU because we really wanted to have EV chargers downtown. It’s something that will help the local community in many ways as well as provide a needed service for tourists and other visitors.”

NHEC had been incentivizing chargers by covering 50 percent of installation costs, but, since the utility considered downtown a priority location, it spurred the PSU project by covering the full $4,800 cost of installing the two units. The incentive has recently been raised to 75 percent to provide further motivation for area businesses to consider the option.

The Plymouth State EV chargers are located in Lot 605 and are mounted to the side of the small “paint shop” outbuilding, in between the ice arena and the Physical Plant Office. Melanson believes that PSU may eventually warrant six to eight chargers on campus, and Durack plans to look into other potential placements.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, albeit a much larger institution than PSU, provides another academic example. Charging stations are located in several areas and are opened to the general public when their locations are not otherwise reserved. In addition, UNC allows EV users to receive unlimited charging access along with parking privileges.

At present, Plymouth State is assuming the cost of charging, so faculty, staff, students, and members of the general public can “fill up” gratis. Going forward, if the service becomes very popular an issue might be how to manage charging time equitably.

Time is an issue, since charging requires a lot of it. Using the Chevy Bolt, a small, all-electric hatchback, as an example, a completely tapped-out vehicle could take between six and eight hours to recharge. However, Melanson points out that EV owners usually don’t let their batteries approach empty and will pull over to recharge their vehicles when they reach quarter- or half-full. Even so, it takes two to three hours to put 100 miles of charge on a Bolt.

Most people don’t own electric vehicles, so one might ask, “What’s in it for me?” Substituting electric for gas benefits everyone through less pollution, less global warming, and less need for drilling and possible spilling. It’s a relatively small contribution to the planet as a whole, but there’s also the potential for substantial personal savings.

Of course, most chargers aren’t free, but, even so, going electric makes good dollars and sense. EV users can expect to pay one-third less for fueling and the savings are even greater if scheduled maintenance is considered. EVs have fewer mechanical parts that need adjusting and replacing, making their overall cost more like half the expense of going with gas.

With General Motors’s stunning announcement that it’ll no longer sell gas or diesel cars and SUVs by 2035, we may all be driving EVs very soon.