Electric feel: City powers ahead with charging stations (updated)

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Margaret Smith, Michael Phillips, Keith Woodard and David Toscano stand in front of the city's electric vehicle as Mayor Satyendra Huja cuts a gasoline hose at the grand opening of the Downtown Mall's new fast-charging electric car stations. Margaret Smith, Michael Phillips, Keith Woodard and David Toscano stand in front of the city’s electric vehicle as Mayor Satyendra Huja cuts a gasoline hose at the grand opening of the Downtown Mall’s new fast-charging electric car stations.

General contractor Martin Horn has been generating its own energy for months with an array of rooftop solar panels, and the company just gave passersby a new energy-saver to ogle.

Martin Horn had already installed 82 grid-tied solar panels that produce 260 watts each, enough to run the office most of the time. In September, the company added a free-to-the-public, solar-powered electric vehicle charger, which president Jack Horn says takes only a few hours to fully charge the Nissan Leaf he’s driving while on the Tesla waiting list.

“It’s kind of weird to never go to a gas station,” he says, adding that he’s spent about $150 in maintenance on the car since he bought it for $25,000 two years ago. The Leaf is the only electric car the company owns, but it will soon purchase an electric Audi for Horn’s brother and executive vice president, Ted. Horn believes that the more people learn about these vehicles, the sooner they’ll want to buy one.

“People don’t realize how easy it is to get by on a maximum distance of 75 miles,” he says. “I would say 25 days a month, it’s the only thing I drive.” He adds that he almost never has to charge his car at home and gets by with using just the office charger. Driving an electric vehicle is increasingly easy with the chargers he says he sees popping up all over the city.

On October 13, a new kind of electric vehicle charger came to town. Instead of a traditional grand opening ribbon cutting, people who worked to install the first DC Fast Charger station on the Downtown Mall held a long black gasoline hose as Mayor Satyendra Huja sliced it in half.

At the First and Market streets parking lot, two electric vehicle fast-charging stations now can power energy-efficient, zero-emission cars in just 30 minutes. The city, along with Virginia Clean Cities, also installed fast-charging stations at Homewood Suites on Route 29 North and the Water Street parking lot. Virginia Clean Cities is working to install two more fast-charging stations in Charlottesville, with 22 already immediately available.

“Just a couple years ago, we were talking about getting one charging station,” says Michael Phillips, the project manager of Virginia Clean Cities. “Now we have 25.”

Though more of these cars are taking to the road, Keith Woodard, owner of the lot at First and Market streets, says they’re mostly charged at home—not at public charging stations like the one he just installed.

“This means that someone traveling from out of town can come by and know they have a place to recharge if they need to,” he says.

The fast-charging stations on the mall are some of the first publicly available ones in Charlottesville and are compatible with Tesla, which Woodard drives, and the Nissan Leaf, which Horn drives. The city also has three Nissan Leafs.

Although Delegate David Toscano joked at the grand opening, “Keith is giving away free electrons,” Woodard has joined a slew of people and businesses who supply locals and passersby with the chance to charge their electric car.

UVA has a charger in the Emmet Street parking garage, and it is available for guests staying at Hyatt Place, Homewood Suites, Omni Hotel, Keswick Hall and the Oakhurst Inn. The Virginia Department of Transportation has installed chargers in some rest areas on I-64, and the DC Fast Chargers are now operational from downtown Staunton to Central Virginia and the Virginia Beach oceanfront.

According to Phillips, about 4,000 electric vehicles are registered in Virginia.

Woodard compared the implementation of electric vehicle technology to a small child, saying it started out slowly. Its early stages were like a “little baby,” he said at the grand opening. The presence of these cars eventually started growing and took its first steps before finally taking off running, he said.

“Hopefully pretty soon,” Woodard said, “it’ll be running marathons.”

 

All “green,” no gasoline

Posted October 13

Instead of a traditional grand opening’s inaugural ribbon cutting, people who worked to install the first electric car charging station on the Downtown Mall held onto a long, black gasoline hose as Mayor Satyendra Huja sliced it in half with a large pair of shears.

At the First and Market streets parking lot, two electric vehicle fast-charging stations now exist to power energy-efficient, zero-emission cars.

Keith Woodard, the lot’s owner, compared the implementation of electric vehicle technology to a small child, saying it started out slowly. Its early stages were like a “little baby,” he said, which eventually started growing, and took its first steps before finally taking off running.

“Hopefully pretty soon,” Woodard said, “it’ll be running marathons.”

The stations on the mall are some of the first publicly available ones in Charlottesville and are compatible with Tesla, which Woodard drives, and the Nissan Leaf, which is sold at local Nissan dealerships in Charlottesville and Staunton and also used by the city.

Virginia Clean Cities are working to install two more fast-charging stations in Charlottesville and have already installed 22 others in the state. These chargers can fully power an electric vehicle in 30 minutes, whereas other types of chargers can take several hours.

“Just a couple years ago, we were talking about getting one charging station,” said Michael Phillips, the project manager of Virginia Clean Cities. “Now we have 25.”

Though electric vehicles are growing in numbers, Woodard said they’re mostly charged at home—not at public charging stations like the one he just installed.

“This means that someone traveling from out of town can come by and know they have a place to recharge if they need to,” he said. Other charging stations are located at Homewood Suites on Route 29 North and the Water Street parking lot.

“Keith is giving away free electrons,” David Toscano, the delegate for the 57th District joked at the plug-in. But Woodard isn’t the only local providing ways to power vehicles without gasoline.

Keswick Hall, Oakhurst Inn and UVA also have electric vehicle charging stations.

General Contractor Martin Horn is now operating its company car with solar energy. With the help of another Charlottesville company, Altenergy, the contractor installed a grid-tied solar photovoltaic alternative energy system on the roof of its headquarters in the Belmont neighborhood. The system’s 82 solar panels produce 260 watts each. This solar-powered charger takes a few hours to fully charge a Nissan Leaf and is free to the public. Other than charging the car, though, this system also provides electric energy for the rest of the office.