Electric vehicle owners laud proposed charging station in downtown Peterborough 

  • A map of charge stations in the Monadnock region shows a "dead zone" in Peterborough. Courtesy IMAGE

  • Hancock resident Woody Huntington charges his electric vehicle at the Hancock Inn.  Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Hancock resident Woody Huntington charges his electric vehicle at the Hancock Inn. Below: The interior display showing the progress of charging. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton

  • A Tesla-specific charger at the Hancock Inn.  Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/19/2020 9:22:03 PM

Visitors to downtown Peterborough could be able to receive complimentary charges for their electric vehicles by this summer.

Currently a number of Peterborough town committees are working out the logistics of installing what would be the second of just two charge stations between Manchester and Keene.

Proponents see the initiative as a way for Peterborough to stay relevant as electric vehicles grow in popularity.

The charging station would service four parking spaces on the west side of the Riverwalk parking lot, where an electrical conduit was proactively placed when the parking lot was paved last year.

The Peterborough Energy Committee, Economic Development Authority, and Greater Downtown Tax Increment Finance District brought the proposal to the town of Peterborough earlier this year, and a petition article is slated for the town’s 2020 warrant to allocate funds for the station’s installation and operation.

“We want to become, we should be, a destination,” Peterborough resident Bill Kennedy said. “Given all the positive aspects of our town and the number of restaurants and shops … this is an excellent place for people to charge their cars while they’re parked.”

Kennedy, who is the chairman of the Greater Downtown TIF and participates with the EDA, said the issue of an electric vehicle charging station was one of the reasons he got involved with the Peterborough Energy Committee originally.

“We need to position ourselves … as a destination not just now, but in the future,” he said.

Even though a small percentage of the population owns an electric vehicle today, “We want to be on the map for now and beyond, when this is really a big deal,” Kennedy said.

A major impetus of the project is to get Peterborough into map databases of electric vehicle chargers.

“If you Google ‘electric vehicle charging stations near me,’ we don’t come up right now,” PEC Chair Emily Manns said. “If we’re not on the map, people … won’t stop here.”

“Range anxiety” is real, Kennedy said, and the presence of a free charging station can make a real difference in how an electric vehicle owner plans a trip.

“We’re not focusing on local usage. What we’re trying to do is create a destination, have a place where [travelers are] comfortable to go to because they can refuel.”

Kennedy owns an electric vehicle, and said that calculating how far he can drive on a charge is something he does before he even leaves his house.

“You look at the map and say: I’ve got to go this distance, and I’ve got this amount of charge in this car … If a particular area has no charging stations I’m not going to go through that area.”

For example, he said that he would consider driving through Massachusetts’ higher density area of charging stations en route to New York rather than the more direct route through New Hampshire and Vermont.

The “destination charging station” concept is certainly what Jarvis and Marcia Coffin had in mind when they approached Tesla to install a charge station at the Hancock Inn, the sole station listed between Keene and Manchester. Initially, Jarvis Coffin said, the company said “no,” but came around when Marcia pointed out the Inn’s strategic location between the coast and the interior of New England.

If there was one in Peterborough, a visitor to downtown has ample opportunity to buy art, go to the spa, or attend events while their car charges, Manns said. “Early adopters of electric vehicles have money to spend.”

There’s a substantial environmental impetus to the project in addition to tourism and marketing opportunities, Manns said.

“I believe the path to reducing our carbon footprint is to electrify everything and produce energy in a renewable fashion. We are technologically very close to being able to do that. We’re there. We can do it ... But we have to do it,” she said.

The charge station would feature 240-volt AC Level 2 chargers capable of delivering electricity at a rate of 25 miles per hour, which can fully charge an electric car battery in four to ten hours. For reference, Level 1 chargers are 120 volts AC and use standard house outlets to charge. Level 3 chargers, or “superchargers” in Tesla driver language, can deliver up to 500 volts DC, and can fully charge a car’s battery in half an hour. Level 2 chargers are usable with all electric vehicles currently on the road, Manns said.

The charger would use $1.26 per hour in electricity, Manns said, but there’s no plan to charge for use of the station. In part, that’s because it would be more costly and complicated to collect money than to give it away for free. Although charging technology is fairly standardized payment technology is not.

“Apparently these things malfunction quite often, require maintenance, and are also more expensive to install,” Kennedy said.

There are a variety of payment apps that need WiFi or cellphone access, Manns said, which could be a problem in Peterborough.

Although people might fret about giving away a service for free, Manns said, she saw the potential benefits of a complimentary system, including goodwill to visitors and increased foot traffic, outweighing the electricity cost. The town could manage usage if necessary by enacting a two hour parking limit, or shutting the system down at night, she said. The proposal includes a meter to monitor usage, she said.

“We would love to know stop and start times,” she said, adding that it would be great if they could also collect information on where users were coming from.

Manns and Kennedy both have electric vehicles, and neither anticipates local residents to become heavy users of the station, as it’s much more convenient to charge at home.

Hancock resident Woody Huntington echoed the sentiment. Huntington owns a Tesla, and although he used the complimentary charger at the Hancock Inn when he first got the vehicle, he mostly charges at home – unless he comes across a Tesla supercharge station.

“If you’re going to charge out anywhere you’d better find a supercharger,” he said, which can fully charge his battery in 20 minutes for roughly $12, instead of four hours at the Level 2 chargers the Hancock Inn offers to inn guests and pub patrons.

“If you have an hour I’ll tell you what I think of it,” Huntington said of his Tesla, touting its handling, acceleration and minimal maintenance. Charging the car ends up costing a little less than it would if it used gasoline, he said.

“We absolutely love our electric vehicle,” Kennedy said of his Chevrolet Volt. “We call it Sparky.”

Kennedy’s wife, State Sen. Jeanne Dietsch, easily takes the vehicle to and from Concord on a single charge.

“We feel like we’re doing something for climate change, they’re also so much fun to drive,” he said. “The responsiveness is exhilarating ... this one just takes off.”

He said they have to be mindful of seasonal differences: although they can drive more than 200 miles on a charge in the summer, Kennedy said the capacity halves in the cold of the winter. Heating an electric vehicle takes energy, he noted, whereas heat is just a waste product in a combustion engine. Kennedy makes a game of improving the car’s efficiency by altering the way he drives it.

“These are all things a owner of a fully electric vehicle has to think about when they embark on their travels: How many miles do I have, how many miles can I go, can I charge,” he said, and that it reinforces the importance of having charging services available municipally.


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