Bennington gets grant for electric car chargers

BENNINGTON -- The town, along with five others, has received grant money to purchase and install charging stations for electric cars and hybrids.

Bennington was awarded $22,000 from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources for two charging stations to be installed on town-owned land.

Michael Harrington, Bennington's economic and community development director, said a number of details have yet to be worked out, such as where the charging stations will go, and how, or if, electric car owners will pay to use them.

Two possible locations are near the Town Office on South Street, or the municipal parking lot off Pleasant Street, near the Green Mountain Express bus station. The charging stations resemble air pumps found at many gas stations, he said. It is thought they will be put between two parking spots, as a charge can take up to two hours to complete.

Some town-owned stations simply absorb the cost of electricity, but depending on how often they are used payment options can be worked out. Harrington said some communities contract with a third party, which publicizes the locations of charging stations and issues charge cards.

The grant requires a 25 percent match from the town, he said, but that can come through in-kind services, likely in the form of installation preparations. Harrington said the stations do not need monitoring, and are self-serve.

Because the Select Board signed off on the grant application, no further approval should be needed unless the town, for some unforeseen reason, has to contribute more than the 25 percent match.

When the stations will be installed is unknown, said Harrington. The hope is to have them in by the end of this year, but the Agency of Natural Resources has suggested the towns awarded the grants have talks with each other to see if the stations can be purchased in bulk, thereby saving money.

Mike Kamm, of Averill Park, N.Y., has owned an electric vehicle (EV) since June. He began looking into buying one when gas prices went above $4 per gallon.

"As with most EV owners, most of the charging is done at home," he said. His 2013 Honda Fit EV comes with a built-in global positioning system which tells him where to find charging stations, and can tell him whether he has enough of a charge to reach one.

Kamm said he had wanted to take the EV to Bennington for a cruise-in at Hemmings Motor News, but there appear to be no charging stations in town so he used his gasoline-powered car instead. He frequents three websites that map charging stations, many of which are free to use at places like grocery stores.

"Electric car owners like places that have charging stations," Kamm said. A charge costs about $2.50, he said, which the store more than makes up for with purchases, usually. Farther south, he said, in the New York City and New Jersey area, users pay a fee.

He said his car is much like his cell phone. He charges it overnight, and uses it throughout the day. Kamm said one downside is cold weather can cause the battery to hold less of a charge.

According to Gov. Peter Shumlin's Office, 22 charging stations exist in Vermont now.

In addition to the six announced on Tuesday, seven more are expected to be awarded in the spring. The chargers come in two types, "Level 2" charges that take two hours for a full charge, and "Level 3" chargers that take under an hour. The grants are being awarded to municipalities with designated downtowns.

Aside from Bennington, the following towns received grants:

* Barre received $30,000 for a pair of Level 2 chargers.

* Burlington received $30,000 for two Level 2 charges, and a Level 3 charger.

* Middlebury was awarded $29,287 for two Level 2 chargers.

* Morristown received $10,098 for two Level 2 chargers.

* St. Albans got $6,625 for two Level 2 chargers.

"These charging stations will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lower the cost of transportation for families and businesses, and modernize our infrastructure," Shumlin said in a release. "They also provide an important boost to our downtowns by encouraging folks to shop and dine while their car charges."

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.


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