Revved up for electric car charging stations

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(Posted July 29, 2020)

Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Drivers of electric vehicles could find more opportunities to recharge their batteries in Madison County come next year.

The city of London, on behalf of the county, plans to apply for a $115,000 grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to install eight two-car charging stations around the county for public use.

The EPA is offering similar funding to 25 other counties in Ohio. The source of the funding is the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust Fund, part of a court-ordered settlement to offset excess air pollution emitted by Volkswagen vehicles that violated the Clean Air Act.

The grant program aims to increase availability of electric vehicle charging stations and awareness of them, leading to increased use of electric vehicles, decreased use of petroleum-based fuels, and lower emission rates across the state.

London Mayor Patrick Closser spoke with the Madison County commissioners about the funding opportunity on July 28. He offered the city’s services in applying for the grant as a coordinated effort to benefit the entire county. The commissioners gave him the greenlight. The EPA will be allocating the money through the county offices.

“Our initial thoughts are that we take two of the stations for London, one for the county to have near the courthouse, and then the other five villages would get one each, if they want one and have a place for it,” Closser said.

Amy Rees, manager and executive assistant for London’s city administrative offices, is spearheading the grant application process. She, Closser, and other city representatives will be reaching out to village leaders in Midway, Mount Sterling, Plain City, South Solon and West Jefferson to gauge interest. Rees has already participated in educational webinars on the charging stations and has been in touch with EV United, a Dublin, Ohio, company certified by the EPA to install the charging stations.

Closser said more research needs to be done and questions answered before an application is filed.

“We have a lot of information, but there’s still a lot of information we want to get,” he said. “We need to figure out where we would put them (the charging stations), if we are going to charge to use them or, if we aren’t, who’s going to pay for the electric, and if we’re going to have time limits on them so that someone doesn’t leave their car there charging for hours and hours.”

The grant stipulates that the stations be placed in areas where they would support economic development. Closser gave the example of someone on their way from Springfield to Columbus stopping in London to charge their vehicle for 30 minutes. The idea is that they could walk to nearby shops and other retailers while they are waiting.

The EPA will fund 100 percent of the cost of stations installed on government owned property and 80 percent of stations installed on non-government-owned property. Recipients must operate and maintain the chargers for at least five years and submit regular usage reports to the EPA.

Closser believes the funding is worth pursuing for a variety of reasons.

“It’s a free grant, and you need to take advantage when free money comes your way to better your community,” he said. “And we want to use this to boost economic development.”

With apps that show where the closest charging stations are, the availability of stations could bring more traffic and business to the county. Closser wants the city of London and the rest of the county to be prepared as electric vehicles become more affordable and more and more people start using them.

The grant application must be submitted to the EPA by Sept. 30. Awards will be announced on Jan. 15.

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