University, city install free charging stations for hybrids

Reporter and Reporter

In an effort to live up to the “green” in its name, the University and the city have installed electric vehicle charging stations throughout the campus and city areas.

“We have a desire to promote green. We want to put the ‘green’ in ‘Bowling Green,’” said Tony Palumbo, director of the University Electric Vehicle Institute.

Completed at the end of June, the charging stations allow for anyone, student or otherwise, who owns a hybrid or electric car with a standard plug-in, a feature on every commercial electric car, to charge at these stations, Palumbo said.

“The electricity is free for right now but the user will pay to park,” said Nick Hennessey, sustainability coordinator.

Users need only pay to park via a coin-fed meter. By not requiring a parking pass for the stations on campus, it will ensure they are open to not only students, but to the general public as well, he said.

The stations throughout the city are also free for at least a year, said Brian O’Connell, the city utilities director.

After the city collects a year’s worth of data on the frequency of use for the stations, there may be plans to come up with a fee structure, he said.

Half of the funding for this project came from a grant distributed by Clean Fuels Ohio. The other half for the campus stations came from the Green Initiative Fund, which collects from an optional fee of $5 per student a semester, Hennessey said. These funds are reserved for green and sustainable projects on campus.

“Students are the ones who apply for the projects and decide what the projects will be,” he said. “It’s very student-oriented.”

Since the grant was available, the green fund committee decided that the charging stations would be a good investment. The University, along with the city, purchased six at the same time for the cost benefit. Three were stationed around campus and the rest were installed throughout the city, Hennessey said.

Aside from the grant from Clean Fuels Ohio, the city funded the charging stations with money from the Eco Smart Choice Fund. The money for the fund comes from electric customers who choose to pay the optional fee on their electric bills, and it is used to support electric projects in the city. “The idea was to be a collaborative effort between the University and the city to set up a few units around the city,” he said.

The first campus station is in Lot 20, otherwise known as the welcome center lot. The second is in Lot 8 behind Falcon Heights and the final one is in Lot E right across from The Union, Hennessey said.

The city stations are on East Court Street between Main and Prospect streets, on South Prospect Street south of Wooster Street and on South Church Street.

Palumbo said now is the time to start putting the equipment to accommodate alternative fuel cars in place, such as electric vehicles to decrease the dependency on gasoline.

“If we look at these alternative fuels, the infrastructure’s got to come with it. It’s been done in the past, it can be done now,” he said. “You’ve got to start somewhere.”

While the stations will encourage those with electric cars to use them more, it will also encourage those without to consider purchasing one since they will see that stations are readily available, Palumbo said.

“If you see people using this stuff, it’ll become more commonplace,” Palumbo said.

If the stations get enough use, Palumbo said he will consider looking into purchasing more.

Hennessey said there’s even a possibility for the University to acquire electric vehicles for its various campus operations.

“The question is, ‘will these [stations] promote the use of electric vehicle hybrids?’ and I think the answer is yes,” Hennessey said.

In addition to promoting sustainable fuel practices, the hope is that the charging stations will also encourage more travel to the area.

The stations will allow for people with electric vehicles in nearby areas such as Findlay and Toledo to have a longer range of travel, O’Connell said.

“One of the intents was to promote BG and promote campus,” Hennessey said.

Most of the stations, particularly the ones throughout the city, are placed next to restaurants and retail establishments, he said. This will encourage people to grab a bite to eat or shop while their vehicles charge.

The ultimate goal, however, is for the University to be forward-thinking in its quest for sustainable fuel practices.

“The University should lead the way in the future and in our mind, there’s a future in electric car technology,” Palumbo said.