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Electric vehicle growth depends on charging infrastructure

The number of public EV charging stations is growing. Here is one with a solar array in the Marble Works neighborhood of Middlebury.

BRISTOL — The town of Bristol has been trying to secure funding for a public electric vehicle (EV) charging station for a couple of years, but the cards just haven’t fallen into place, officials said.
The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t helped, of course.
But thanks to the work of the Bristol Energy Committee, things might just be looking up.
“I just had a good meeting this week with folks who are going to help us secure the funding,” committee chair Sally Burrell told the Independent earlier this month. “I think we’re on the right track now. We have the site chosen (West Street, along the park) and the selectboard’s willingness.”
Installing more public EV charging infrastructure is essential to transitioning the nation’s vehicles from heavy polluting internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to cleaner EVs.
“Enough chargers located strategically makes people feel more secure in purchasing an all-electric vehicle,” Burrell said. “(EVs) require less maintenance and repair than hybrids (or ICE vehicles), but people worry that they’ll be caught running out of juice.”
But charging stations, especially the fast ones, can be quite expensive.
According to Drive Electric Vermont (DEV), 480-volt Level 3 DC fast-chargers cost anywhere from $15,000 to $60,000 per unit, plus $10,000 to $25,000 for installation, for a total cost of $25,000 to $85,000 each.
“Fast-charging is expensive,” acknowledged DEV Coordinator Dave Roberts. “It requires a robust, high-powered connection to the grid, which isn’t available everywhere.”
And charging stations aren’t exactly cash cows, either.
“It’s hard to make money from fast-charging without government or utility incentives,” Roberts said.
More affordable are the 240-volt Level 2 chargers, which cost between $600 and $9,000 per unit, plus $2,000 to $12,000+ for installation, for a total cost of $2,600 to $21,000+ each.
These currently make up the bulk of public EV charging stations, but they’re significantly slower: about 10-20 miles per charge hour.
The least expensive option that’s not an orange, heavy-duty extension cord is a Level 1 charger, which is typically used at home or in long-term parking situations. Level 1 chargers carry the same power, 120 volts, as orange extension cords, and they’re glacially slow, about 5 miles per charge hour. But they’re significantly less expensive: $30 to $900 per unit, plus $200 to $450 for installation, for a total cost of $230 to $1,350.

STATE & FEDERAL FUNDING
Still, Vermont has more charging stations per capita than any other state in the U.S. — 292 so far. And more are coming.
•  Over the next two years, the state will build 11 new fast-charging stations in high-traffic corridors.
•  After that, six more are on tap, including one in Vergennes.
•  Gov. Scott has proposed spending $25 million of Vermont’s share of American Rescue Plan funding to expand EV infrastructure.
•  He has also proposed spending $1 million to install charging stations at multi-unit dwellings, to make them more accessible for more Vermonters.
•  President Biden has proposed a national network of 500,000 EV charging stations as part of his American Jobs Plan. In per capita terms, this could theoretically result in more than 600 new charging stations in Vermont.

LOCAL EFFORTS
Much work is also being done on the local level.
The Climate Economy Action Center (CEAC) of Addison County has been working with Green Mountain Power to secure public charging stations around the county.
So far they’ve combined to install EV chargers on the Vergennes green, behind the Middlebury Recreation Center and at Danforth Pewter in Middlebury, according to CEAC board member Spence Putnam.
Three more charging stations have been delivered — for Middlebury Union High School, the Middlebury Snow Bowl and the Rikert Nordic Center at Bread Loaf — but their installation was delayed by the pandemic.
Putnam noted that CEAC members are also involved in the work of their local energy committees, and their focus on EVs extends beyond road vehicles to lawn and garden equipment, which is also a heavy emitter of greenhouse gases.

UTILITY INCENTIVES
Green Mountain Power (GMP) has a number of EV-related incentive programs, including purchase rebates and free Level 2 charging units for qualifying Vermont residents.
Its Workplace Charging Program is geared toward offices, retail spaces, municipal buildings, condos, hotels and the like.
GMP installs one or more Level 2 charging stations and offers a software subscription to help manage station access, reservations and mobile app payments.
GMP also offers special electric rates for EV charging.
“Customers who enroll can connect their chargers to the internet and have GMP manage their charging around peak times,” GMP Director of Communications Kristin Kelly explained. “This can reduce the price of charging to the equivalent of $1.00 per gallon of gasoline.”
The program results in savings for all customers, not just those with EV chargers, Kelly said, and that savings allows GMP to reinvest in its EV incentive programs.
For more information about GMP’s EV incentives for business and residential customers, visit greenmountainpower.com.
To learn more about CEAC and its projects, visit ceacac.org.
And for all things EV in Vermont, visit driveelectricvt.com.
Click here to see a list of public EV charging stations in Addison County.
Reach Christopher Ross at christopherr@addisonindependent.com.

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