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Gainesville City Council considers electric car charging station for downtown

By Brian Stewart Reporter

GAINESVILLE—Gainesville City Council members are exploring the options of installing an electric vehicle charging station in one of the city's downtown parking lots.

Aaron Luque, President and CEO of EnviroSpark Energy Solutions, told council members at Thursday morning's work session that it costs about $4,000 to install the unit, but about half of that cost is subsidized by Georgia Power.

"You're looking at pennies to the session when somebody plugs up," said Luque.

Estimates by the city said it would cost about $30-50 per month to run the station, depending on whether or not payment is required for charging.

"Most EV (electric vehicle) drivers are okay with paying a small fee to extend their (driving) range," said Luque.

The station would be located at the corner of Broad Street and Maple Street, near the downtown parking deck.

"Our original thought was that we should put it in the parking deck," said Catiel Felts, Public Information Officer for the city. She said the parking lot would make more sense, since a power source is readily available at that location. Such is not the case for the parking deck.

One option city leaders considered is offering the service free of charge for a short period of time after installation, then moving to a paid system somewhere down the line.

"In life, as a general principle, there's nothing free. But if it would be an economic engine to bring people downtown, I could get behind this," said Councilman Sam Couvillon.

In the Gainesville area (according to the "Plug Share" app), charging stations are already in place at the Kroger on Jesse Jewell Parkway, Carriage Kia and Nissan on Browns Bridge Road and the University of North Georgia's campus.

The city of Suwanee just installed a charging station of its own, and city leaders opted to go the paid route, charging $1.50 up front, then 10¢ per minute after that. EnviroSpark was the company behind that station as well, and Luque said it's a "level three" charging station, which can get a car to full battery capacity in about 15 minutes.

"I'm inclined to say we need to charge a fee for this," said Couvillon.

By making it a paid feature, Luque said, it encourages drivers not to "hog" the space. Many municipalities will charge a cheaper fee (or no fee at all) for the first two to three hours, then charge a higher rate after that, which encourages drivers to get their fill, then move along.

"You're not just going to sit under the trees for two hours," said Felts. Instead, she said, users will be inclined to walk downtown to shop or eat.

"I'd like to see the options," said Mayor Danny Dunagan.

Documents presented to councilmembers said Georgia saw an increase in registered electric vehicles from 1,469 to 10,482 in a period of time from March 2013 to March 2014. The Peach State is second only to California's 77,222 electric vehicles.

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