BRATTLEBORO -- It is getting cheaper and easier to purchase and charge an electric vehicle in Brattleboro.
The town has installed two Level 2,100-amp electric vehicle charging stations on the first level of the transportation center. And Brattleboro Ford is also taking part in a statewide incentive program that offers $500 to any Vermont resident who purchases an electric vehicle from the showroom on Putney Road.
Brattleboro Town Energy Coordinator Paul Cameron said the charging stations have been in service at the parking garage for about two weeks.
"They are up and running and people are starting to use them," Cameron said. "There is a demand that is increasing and the state has to build the infrastructure to meet that demand. It is great to see the town taking a leadership role in this."
The stations are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and are free to drivers who pay to park in the transportation center.
Cameron said the town is monitoring the use at the charging stations and vehicle owners might be required to pay for the electricity in the future. Funding for the charging stations was provided from a Vermont Downtown Program grant. Brattleboro Ford, the Brattleboro Food Co-op, Soveren Solar, Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, Brattleboro Savings and Loan and Jason Cooper Management also contributed to the project.
Cameron said the town embraced the idea to both support sustainable energy and support downtown businesses.
Electric car owners can download smartphone apps that list charging stations, and with the free charging station downtown, Cameron said it gives vehicle owners another reason to park their car downtown and shop or visit a restaurant.
The state of Vermont will be installing signs at I-91 Exits 1 and 2, directing electric car owners to the charging stations.
"We expect local folks and tourists to use these," Cameron said. "The town plan clearly supports downtown businesses. The plan also supports charging stations and more broadly supports expanding renewable energy whenever possible and reducing carbon emissions and other air pollutants."
The Level 2, 100-amp electric vehicle charging station will charge a vehicle in about three to four hours, depending on the charge left in the battery.
The new charging station replaces an obsolete charging station that was installed when the transportation center was built in 2003.
At Brattleboro Ford, General Manager Shawn McMillan said the dealership is seeing a growing interest in electric vehicles, and he hopes the new incentive will encourage more customers to consider the change.
Brattleboro Ford is one of 11 dealerships in the state that is taking part in the $500 incentive program, which is being supported by Drive Electric Vermont, a project of the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation in partnership with the state of Vermont, and other electric vehicle supporters.
There are 75 incentive vouchers being offered across the state on a first-come-first-served basis. Brattleboro Ford has seven vouchers.
"The whole purpose of this incentive program is to get more people interested in purchasing these vehicles and dropping our dependence on foreign oil," McMillan said. "If people are thinking of making this switch, $500 is good incentive to do it."
There are eight different electric models on the market in Vermont right now, according to Drive Electric Vermont, and the state has seen a 240 percent increase in the number of registered electric vehicles in the state last year. In April 2013 there were 263 registered electric vehicles in Vermont and that number jumped to 630 by the end of April 2014.
Drive Electric Vermont Spokeswoman Kelly Lucci said the incentive program was launched during the summer when car purchases tend to spike.
Drive Electric Vermont was started to promoted electric vehicles and Lucci said car manufacturers are sending those vehicles to dealerships in states like Vermont that promote sustainable energy.
"The state recognizes that if we want to meet our goal of expanding renewable energy we need more electric vehicles and so we are trying to encourage consumers and help them learn more about how to access charging stations that are starting to be built across the state," Lucci said. "We’ve seen a large increase in the number of electric vehicles in the Vermont and we want to generate enthusiasm and build on that momentum."