ELEC­TRIC

Cecil Whig - - LO­CAL -

elec­tric car charg­ing sta­tions at its Ce­cil­ton and soon- to- bere­opened North East lo­ca­tions, join­ing a sta­tion pri­vately- owned by Wil­liams Chevro­let in Elk­ton as the county’s op­tions for the for­ward- think­ing.

Ce­cil County is a bit late to the race, as 308 lo­ca­tions have opened across Mary­land in re­cent years, al­though most are at Mary­land de­part­men­tal head­quar­ters, large em­ploy­ers or along high- traf­fic ar­eas such as Route 50 to the beaches and the Wash­ing­ton, D. C., belt­way.

State trans­porta­tion of­fi­cials be­lieved that fund­ing new charg­ing sta­tions would al­le­vi­ate “range anx­i­ety,” or the worry that an elec­tric car driver would be stranded due to a lack of charg­ing ac­cess or a ve­hi­cle’s mileage con­straints, and fur­ther the mar­ket for such ve­hi­cles here. So in 2014, then- Mary­land At­tor­ney Gen­eral Doug Gansler an­nounced a $ 1 mil­lion pub­lic- pri­vate grant pro­gram, the Mary­land Energy Ad­min­is­tra­tion Elec­tric Ve­hi­cle In­fra­struc­ture Grant Pro­gram, which was funded by a set­tle­ment of a Clear Air Act vi­o­la­tion.

Among those who took ad­van­tage of the pro­gram was Royal Farms, which matched 50- 50 grants to build high- speed charg­ing sta­tions at 15 lo­ca­tions across the state, in­clud­ing the two in Ce­cil County. When the North East store re­opens at mid­night Mon­day, pa­trons will find the charg­ing sta­tion there of­fer­ing free charges for the first 30 days. Af­ter the first month, the cost will be a mere 29 cents per kilo­watt hour, and store leader Sharon Parker said she ex­pects to have en­vi­ron­men­tally as­tute driv­ers ar­riv­ing quickly.

“They have apps in their phones,” she said Thurs­day. “There’s even an app that, by tap­ping the phone on a pay- pad at the charg­ing sta­tion, au­to­mat­i­cally pays for the charge.”

In Ce­cil­ton, town clerk Kim Roland said she’s looked out town hall’s win­dows sev­eral times to find elec­tric ve­hi­cles al­ready charg­ing at the nearby Royal Farms.

“One day, there was an elec­tric car charg­ing up and right next to it was an Amish man’s horse and buggy tied up next to it,” she said.

The growth of elec­tric ve­hi­cles has been felt statewide, with 5,932 plug- in elec­tric ve­hi­cles reg­is­tered with the state as of Oct. 31, ac­cord­ing to the Mary­land Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion. That rep­re­sents a more than 200- per­cent growth from two years prior.

Wil­liam Lit­tle, a Wil­liams Chevro­let sales­man spe­cial­iz­ing in elec­tric ve­hi­cles, said that he’s seen the growth first­hand.

“I think the un­cer­tainty in fuel and oil costs have con­vinced more peo­ple to be less hes­i­tant about the elec­tric car,” he said Thurs­day. “We’re see­ing more and more cus­tomers com­ing in and ask­ing about the spec­i­fi­ca­tions on our elec­tric cars that we never thought would have been in­ter­ested be­fore.”

Lit­tle said he agreed that “range anx­i­ety” is a com­mon con­cern for new elec­tric ve­hi­cle adopters, but the growth of pub­lic charg­ing sta­tions, bet­ter mileage on ve­hi­cles and ris­ing gas prices are help­ing to as­suage that fear.

“In the Chevy Volt, which is an elec­tric ve­hi­cle with a gaspow­ered backup source, you could go a lit­tle over 400 miles be­tween a charge and fill- up,” he said. “Af­ter the first 53 miles or so, a 9- gal­lon fuel backup kicks on to charge the bat­ter­ies for up to an ad­di­tional 350 miles or so.”

The newer Chevy Bolt, due to be re­leased later this year, is a pure elec­tric ve­hi­cle that will be able to travel about 200 miles on a charge, Lit­tle said.

“At an av­er­age cost of $ 1.50 to $ 2 a charge de­pend­ing on some fac­tors, it means you’re sav­ing roughly half of your miles per gal­lon,” he added.

While elec­tric cars may cost a bit more up­front com­pared to their gas- pow­ered neigh­bors — the Volt starts around $ 35,000 — Lit­tle said the cost is off­set by a $ 7,500 fed­eral elec­tric ve­hi­cle re­bate and a $ 2,000 state ex­cise tax credit, bring­ing it in line with a new mid- size sedan while of­fer­ing bet­ter life­long sav­ings.

“There’s def­i­nitely higher de­mand for elec­tric cars in cities than in the sub­urbs,” Lit­tle said. “But I think we’re mov­ing away from the idea of elec­tric cars as a niche prod­uct be­cause I think peo­ple are tired of deal­ing with the ups- and- downs of gas prices. They’re start­ing to look at the fu­ture.”

Among those who have al­ready stepped into the fu­ture is Lanny Hart­mann, of Columbia, who founded PlugInSites. Org, a blog that traces the de­vel­op­ment of new elec­tric charg­ing sta­tions in and around Mary­land.

Hart­mann said he bought his fist elec­tric car, a rare TH! NK City EV, in April 2012, be­cause he rec­og­nized the com­mut­ing ben­e­fits of a car with a lim­ited 80- mile range.

“Charg­ing sta­tions were few and far be­tween when we got our first elec­tric car, so we would make it an ad­ven­ture to do longer trips,” he said. “The first time we took it to Ocean City, we had to stay overnight at a ho­tel and plug it into a wall socket.”

He started the blog as a re­source for other elec­tric car driv­ers to keep up to date with planned sta­tions, al­though he ad­mits it gives him an ex­cuse to set out on new trips.

“About a year and a half ago, we made a hobby out of find­ing the new sta­tions and map­ping them out,” he said, not­ing how it felt like the early days of au­to­mo­biles. “It’s brought out the ad­ven­ture in au­to­mo­bil­ing in me again.”

Hart­mann was so en­cour­aged by the growth of charg­ing sta­tions over the past few years that he traded in his Toyota Prius for the Tesla Model S, an all- elec­tric lux­ury sedan with a range up to 200 miles, last sum­mer – go­ing all- elec­tric as a house­hold.

“Around town, you don’t think about it that much, but it’s a bit of an ad­ven­ture to plan a get­away trip,” he said.

Hart­mann was happy to note that elec­tric cars have been a part of Ce­cil County’s his­tor­i­cal fab­ric for more than a cen­tury. In 1902, famed au­to­mo­bile ex­plorer Oliver Fritchle noted in great de­tail his tri­als and tribu­la­tions in cross­ing a muddy and windy Ce­cil County in an elec­tric car as past of a 2,000- mile jour­ney. Were it not for the Gilpin Falls Power Com­pany’s wa­ter­wheel, he may have been stranded, but in­stead tapped into the power source to recharged his prim­i­tive bat­ter­ies.

To­day, Hart­mann says he feels a bit like that ex­plorer when he’s map­ping out less- har­row­ing jour­neys, but he also dreams about days when it won’t feel so ad­ven­tur­ous.

“I walked out of a Royal Farms the other day with a large SUV squeezed be­tween cars to gas up while my elec­tric car sat alone next to some trees charg­ing,” he said. “I took a pic­ture of the scene and I thought, ‘ One day, it will be the gas pump that is the lone one in the corner.’”

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JA­COB OWENS

Elec­tric car charg­ing stalls like the one seen here at the Ce­cil­ton Royal Farms will likely be­come more com­mon as in­fra­struc­ture growth ex­pands around the state.

MAP COURTESY OF PLUGINSITES.ORG

This map de­tails the sites of DC charg­ing sta­tions funded by the state’s Elec­tric Ve­hi­cle In­fra­struc­ture Grant Pro­gram.

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