News Staff Writer
UNC Asheville recently received a grant from Duke Energy to install electric vehicle charging stations on campus, but these grants for establishments extends beyond the university.
“It’s just a way for Duke Energy to spur a greater adoption of EV charging, which you’re definitely going to need if you’re increasing the amount of electric vehicles on the road,” said Randy Wheeless, communications manager at Duke Energy.
As a part of Asheville city council’s Vision 2036, the $10,000 grant provided by Duke Energy led to the installation of electric vehicle charging stations in the Wall Street parking garage and the Rankin Avenue parking garage. The city council’s operating budget provided the other $10,000 used in this project.
“We still don’t have a huge number of electric vehicles here in the area, but we want to make sure we have the infrastructure as they develop,” said Harry Brown, Asheville parking services manager.
Vision 2036, started in January 2016, encompasses a 20-year plan to promote a clean and healthy environment alongside a diverse community with a thriving local economy.
“We’re hoping that by having infrastructure it will encourage more folks to get them,” Brown said. “So I expect it to start off slow, but we’re hoping over time we’ll get a lot more use out of them.”
A third electric vehicle charging station has been added to the Biltmore Avenue parking garage, but it is privately owned and operated, unlike the stations at Wall Street and Rankin Avenue which are readily accessible.
“I think one of the barriers to more adoption of EV is the lack of charging stations available to the public,” Wheeless said. “You might have one at home, but when you’re out in public driving around maybe there’s not one available. This was a way to spur that on, I think we targeted about 200 charging stations through this program.”
The app PlugShare lists most of the public chargers in any area. Updated by users, it provides constant knowledge charging station locations.
“Nothing to say that’s imminently coming, but we are looking at ways to help people who want to get electric vehicles, to ease that transition,” Wheeless said, on Duke Energy’s future plans.
Vision 2036 also started new strategic plans to improve the local environment. The city is powered by locally-generated, clean sources of energy and air quality problems have reduced, according to the city council.
“The city council has made it a priority for city government to reduce our carbon footprint,” Brown said. “We’ve done several things, converting our garages from fluorescent lights to LEDs, Duke Energy has helped us with that project. In fact, right now we are finalizing the conversion of the civic center garage from 700 fluorescent fixtures to a lesser number of LEDs.”
The number of electric vehicle charging stations was growing at a steady rate in the Asheville area. Whole Foods, the Asheville Chamber of Commerce and the Charlotte Street Public Works building all already had them prior to the grant from Duke Energy.
Rudy Beharrysingh is the director of mathematics assistance center at UNCA and member of the Blue Ridge EV club.
“There have been waves of grants, the most recent is from Duke energy,” Beharrysingh said. “However, when the industry first started, the federal government gave out grants to install chargers. One of the first chargers was installed by the Hilton at Biltmore Town Square, many companies were installing chargers just to attract customers.”
Electric vehicles have the potential to reduce U.S. oil use by 1.5 million barrels a day by 2035 and save up to $13,000 in fuel costs over the lifetime of the vehicle, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“Electric vehicles use electricity, and I mostly charge at home, I just plug it in.” said Beharrysingh. “Even without an ‘official’ charger, an electric car can be plugged in to a regular dedicated outlet, which I used to do at Haywood CC sometimes. I believe there are several 110-volt outlets available in our parking garages available for students with electric cars.”