Selectboard to Consider Grant for EV Station at Huntley Meadow

The charging station at Dan & Whit's one day this week, with a Tesla plugged in.

At its Nov. 14 meeting, the Norwich Selectboard will consider a grant proposal for installing an electric vehicle charging station in the Park and Ride lot at Huntley Meadow. It would look and work much like the station at Dan & Whit's.

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The installation would cost about $20,000, said Linda Gray, chairwoman of the town Energy Committee, and the grant would cover 90 percent of that. 

The town would pay the remaining $2,000, Gray said, ideally through in-kind contributions from the Department of Public Works involving signs, trenching and refilling for electrical work, and erecting barriers to protect the station from being hit by a car. 

Gray said Huntley Meadow is a promising location because it's close enough to the interstate that a traveler might use it, while also serving residents who might park for an hour or two while watching their kids play a game on the fields there. It's also plowed regularly and has good lighting.

In a DailyUV post earlier this month, Norwich Observer blogger Chris Katucki raised a series of questions about the charging stations, foremost among them whether town taxpayers are shouldering ongoing operating costs, and if so, whether they should.
In the case of the Dan & Whit's station, Gray said, the $1 an hour fee drivers pay to recharge more than covers the cost of the electricity. But Green Mountain Power imposes a metering fee plus other charges on the order of $20 to $30 per month, she said. That cost is offset by a solar awning that Norwich Solar installed at Dan & Whit's on the town's behalf. As a result, she said, the math works out to be neutral for taxpayers.

"I think it might be a teeny weeny net positive," Gray said. "It's definitely not a net negative."

But at Huntley Meadow, the town will face the prospect of paying the monthly fees to Green Mountain Power. The town could cover the cost by charging drivers more to use that station, Gray said, though a rate far outside the norm might discourage use.

Any maintenance or repair work on the station would be covered under a 5-year warranty paid for through the grant, Gray said. A Huntley Meadow station, like the one at Dan & Whit's, would likely be part of the ChargePoint network, which manages credit card payments and maintains an app showing drivers where they can find nearby stations. The cost of their service would also be covered under the $1 an hour charging fee.
The charging station at Dan & Whit's was installed in November of 2016, and initially was used for about 10 charging sessions a month, Gray said. It's now used close to 50 times a month.

As of July 1, according to the state, there were 50 electric vehicles registered to drivers in Norwich, 21 of them all-electric and 29 of them plug-in hybrids. That's up by 20, or 66 percent, since July 2017. Statewide, there were 2,612 electric vehicles registered as of July 1.

There is already a second charging station in Norwich at King Arthur Flour. The town had nothing to do with the installation or operation of that station, Gray said.

Gray said the Huntley Meadow station proposal is less about meeting current demand than encouraging the spread of electric vehicles.

"I would say it’s a little bit like, if you build it they will come," she said. "There’s a solid and growing group of drivers who are finding, yeah, it makes sense to be driving an electric vehicle." If you see fostering that growth as good energy policy, "you can’t ask people to buy electric vehicles and operate them without also having an infrastructure where they can plan on recharging."

Gray, who has worked with Town Manager Herb Durfee in developing the grant proposal, said she's hoping it will be endorsed by the Selectboard in time to meet an initial Nov. 30 application deadline. If approved by the state Agency of Commerce and Community Development, the charging units could be installed between April and June of next year.

The grant money would come from $2.4 million allocated to Vermont from the $2.7 billion settlement paid by Volkswagen for deliberately selling cars that emit more pollution than allowed.

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