The Day

EV charging stations proposed for Niantic

But don’t expect them to be available for free

- By ELIZABETH REGAN Day Staff Writer

East Lyme — Local officials have chosen two Niantic parking lots for the town’s first public electric vehicle charging stations as they test the waters of environmen­tal sustainabi­lity.

Town engineer Alex Klose said a rebate program through Eversource Energy will cover $75,000 of the costs related to installing two charging stations in downtown Niantic off Main Street. The remaining $15,000 will have to be approved by voters at a town meeting, now that the necessary permission­s have been granted by the Planning Commission, Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance.

“We’re going to give it a shot. We’re going to see if it gets the use, and if people are using it, then we can say ‘all right, maybe we need to invest in this more,’” Klose said. “And if it doesn't really get the use, then we tried and maybe we’re not ready for that yet.”

Currently, there are 207 electric vehicles registered in East Lyme, according to data from the state Department of Energy and Environmen­tal Protection. There are 1,846 in New London County.

Documents show each charging station will have ports for charging two vehicles. One station will be placed in the municipal parking lot on Methodist Street, just beyond the first two accessible parking spaces upon entering the lot. The other will be in the Hope Street lot in the last two spots before the exit.

Installati­on of each station will include extra conduits so the town can add up to six more spots on the same line in the future.

Klose said he is hopeful the town will qualify for reduced electricit­y rates from Eversource. The goal is to charge a fee to cover the costs to the town.

“We’re not here to make a profit,” he said. “We’re here to be able to provide this as a resource or commodity for the residents.”

Klose said feedback from several towns with similar charging stations indicated the stations get used whether they are free or not. He said

his research showed most towns that had previously offered the service at no cost will soon charge for charging. That’s because some grants that required towns to offer the charging service for free have expired.

He said he spoke to people in Guilford, Clinton, Old Saybrook, Groton, New London, Fairfield, Hebron and New Britain.

“No town I spoke with was like, ‘Oh, this is a bad idea,” he said.

Klose cited data from Guilford indicating about 100 charging sessions a month, with an average session lasting 3 hours and 37 minutes. In Old Saybrook, where a station was installed in a municipal lot downtown, there were about 15 first-time use drivers each month in the last 6 months with an average twohour charge time.

The $15,000 town-funded portion of the project includes just under $5,000 for consulting services from Environmen­tal Systems Corporatio­n, Klose said. The rest is for paving and concrete work related to the installati­on of the units.

Informatio­n from the state Department of Energy and Environmen­tal Protection said 240-volt charging stations like the ones proposed in East Lyme are similar in usage to what an electric clothes dryer uses. It takes 3-6 hours to fully charge a battery.

Klose said the town is on a waiting list for an Eversource rebate for fast charging stations at the East Lyme Town Hall and near the athletic fields at Flanders Elementary School. Those sites were selected because they would be convenient for the public as well as for town-owned vehicles that may some day need to be charged.

“This may be a long time out, but there may be a future where we have electric vehicles in our town fleet,” he said.

Fast charging stations use 480 volts and can provide a 50-80% charge in 30 minutes or less, according to the state.

Electric vehicle charging stations are touted as a boon for local economic developmen­t because drivers have time to shop or eat while they wait for their cars to charge.

First Selectman Kevin Seery, during Klose’s presentati­on last week said it’s a good idea to start planning for electric vehicle charging stations that may eventually become a necessity instead of an option.

“It’s something that makes sense right now, to not only help members of our community, but people that come here as well,” he said.

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