Jan. 14, 2021 | By Lisa Scagliotti
A White River Junction company this week announced a $1 million program to add new electric vehicle chargers for the public to use in six Vermont communities including Waterbury.
Norwich EV plans to install charging stations funded through a $750,000 state grant and its own $250,000 investment, according to a company announcement on Jan. 10.
The company is working with the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, the Agency of Natural Resources, Agency of Transportation and the Vermont Public Service Department to increase electric vehicle charging capacity in downtown areas around Vermont. The move is part of the state’s plan to build out the network for vehicle charging along highway corridors.
The grant will allow Norwich EV to install and operate both fast and/or medium speed chargers in: Alburgh, Brighton, Bradford, Hardwick, Waterbury and Vergennes. In Waterbury’s case, the units will be Level 2 chargers, which take several hours to charge, according to Berrett Walter, Norwich EV’s Clean Technology project manager.
The price for using the medium-speed charger will be $0.20/kWh, approximately the equivalent of $1.65/gallon of gasoline, the company said.
The charging stations have the dual goal of providing quick, reliable and convenient charging capacity while attracting motorists to various downtowns. “The towns were selected to fill gaps in Vermont’s network of publicly available highway-corridor charging stations, with the goal of promoting EV adoption and travel by reducing range anxiety,” the Norwich EV announcement says.
Currently in Waterbury there are a number of EV charging stations located at both public facilities and at private businesses: the Waterbury municipal offices, the Waterbury Train Station, the state office complex, Ben & Jerry’s factory, SunCommon’s offices, Parro’s Gun Shop and at the Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea roasting plant and cafe.
Norwich EV has just begun contacting officials in the communities for the project. Town officials in Waterbury said they were aware of the announcement but no detailed discussions have happened yet.
The proposal calls for installing three charging stations together on municipally owned property in each of the communities. Ideally they would be accessible from 3-4 parking spaces, a company spokeswoman said.
“By working closely with each town, Norwich EV will thoughtfully develop EV charging destinations that support both Vermonters and those who visit Vermont,” said Walter said.
Norwich EV aims to begin installation in 2022 along with its partner E&S Electric Company of Williamstown. The firm AmpUp will help manage the EV charging stations network, pricing, and energy load and provide easy online access to customers and utilities.
Matt Bloom, Director of Strategic Partnerships at AmpUp, said the stations will serve multiple functions. “The stations will be a welcome addition to increase tourism and commerce while also promoting clean transportation,” he said.
Founded in 2011, Norwich Technologies develops and commercializes innovations in clean-energy technology including promoting electrification of transportation. The company says its philosophy is to encourage the expansion of the charging network to reduce “range anxiety” for electric vehicle drivers. That refers to how electric vehicles have a range they can operate in before needing to recharge. Having a reliable network of charging facilities is important for electric vehicle owners to be able to travel more than short distances.
More EVs on the roads
According to the state Agency of Commerce and Community Development, the state of Vermont since 2014 has invested over $3.5 million in public EV charging stations in all 14 counties. The agency claims that Vermont now ranks first in the nation for the number of charging stations per capita with 114 public charging stations per 100,000 people. The state has an interactive map with charging station locations.
The state began in 2014 with grants for building out the network of charging stations. An initial $200,000 funded 15 stations. Since then, the growth of electric vehicle ownership in Vermont has been strong from 943 registered in the state in July 2015 to 4,360 in January 2021, according to state data.
In 2017, more funding became available from the settlement with Volkswagen for violations of the Clean Air Act. That resulted in $1 million in grants awarded to 30 projects in 2019 that installed 80 charging stations along highway corridors, at public park and ride lots, at major attractions and institutions, near multi-family housing and workplaces.
Another $1.7 million in Volkswagen funding followed in 2020 and was awarded to the company Blink Charging which this year will install charging stations at 11 locations along highway corridors in Vermont.
This latest funding awarded to Norwich EV through a bid process was approved by the state Legislature in 2020. Its six locations including Waterbury are expected to receive new stations this summer and fall, according to the state project description.
Grants to expand charging at home
In a separate announcement this week, the state of Vermont put out a call for proposals for a grant program that will allocate $1 million to fund electric vehicle charging stations at multi-unit housing developments, with a preference for sites at affordable housing units and those owned by nonprofit corporations.
Grants will be awarded up to $80,000 per site and $300,000 per applicant. In announcing the program. Gov. Phil Scott said, “Ensuring Vermonters have access to home charging options will support the transition to electric vehicles, which will benefit the environment and reduce transportation costs for Vermonters.”
The state estimates that 80% of EV charging happens at home. However, lack of home charging capability is a key obstacle for residents of apartments or condos to acquire electric vehicles.
The grant deadline to apply is April 1 with a webinar online on Jan. 26. Details on the program aare online at accd.vermont.gov/multiunit_dwelling.
Building electric transportation infrastructure
Vermont Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn said public and private sector investment in EV technology and infrastructure is important. “Vermont continues to be a leader in EV adoption, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and paving the way to a more sustainable transportation system,” he said.
David Roberts is coordinator of Drive Electric Vermont, an organization promoting expanding the presence of EVs in Vermont. Both charging station efforts — the new installations in downtowns and in residential areas — are steps in the right direction, he said.
“Ultimately it would be great to see charging available at nearly every residence in the state as EV use grows,” Roberts said.
He noted that the Vermont Climate Action Plan finalized in December anticipates that EV use will increase from about 5,500 vehicles on Vermont’s roads today to as many as 170,000 vehicles by 2030.
Those projections track developments in the auto industry as nearly every major car manufacturer is now committed to converting a major portion of their fleet to EVs by 2030, said Duncan McDougall, chair of Waterbury Local Energy Action Partnership (LEAP), a nonprofit organization and town energy committee focused on energy efficiency, renewables, and emission reduction.
“Interest in EVs is very high,” McDougall said. For the past several years, LEAP has organized a popular EV fair for vehicle owners, prospective owners, dealers, and experts to discuss the latest developments, models, and to see and test-drive vehicles. Last year’s event drew more than 200 people and 18 vehicles for them to check out.
Building out the EV charging capacity around the state in proximity to where people travel and live will play a role in decisions more Vermonters make to get electric vehicles, McDougall said.
Roberts at Drive Electric agreed. “The EV market share has doubled over the last year, and this is just the start as more affordable models continue arriving in Vermont, availability of used EVs grows, and incentives bring down up-front costs,” he said.
Flynn said more opportunities are imminent to continue to build on electric transportation projects. “Vermont will continue this work with millions of dollars of federal funds that will be available through the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and administered by the Agency of Transportation,” he said. “AOT looks forward to continuing to work with our federal partners, other state agencies, non-government agencies and other stakeholders, and the private sector on this historic, multidisciplinary, and transformative undertaking.”
Roberts said Drive Electric is looking forward to these future investments. “We are currently working with the state to develop an EV charging deployment plan that will help identify priorities for the $21 million in EV charging funding expected to flow to Vermont,” he said, referring to the federal Investment and Jobs Act.
This planning process will unfold this year and it could identify needs in the Waterbury area for even more charging capacity in the future, Roberts added.
More information about the state’s investments in and plans for the electric vehicle charging network is online on vermont.gov.