(TNS) — Electric vehicles may soon be getting more than one kind of charge when they top up at a municipal parking lot.
Since the first town-owned vehicle charging stations were installed in December 2019, they’ve been free for users, with taxpayers shouldering the cost of maintenance and electricity. Now, town officials are asking to implement a user fee of $1 per kilowatt-hour, even though that’s well above the cost of power at home, or at commercial charging stations.
In a letter to the City Council last month, Agawam resident Susan Grossberg said it costs her 21 cents per kilowatt-hour to plug in at home, albeit at a slower charge rate. But Cumberland Farms in town costs just 35 cents per kilowatt-hour, she added, with faster-charging technology. The town-owned charging station in West Springfield is free.
“For the town to cover its cost and charge $1 per hour is like paying $8 per gallon for gas,” Grossberg said. “No one in their right mind would pay that, when they can charge so much faster, for so much less, down the road.”
Agawam operates seven electric vehicle charging stations. Chargers in parking lots at Borgatti Park, the town library and the Corey Street side of School Street Park were activated in December 2019. Four more chargers went online in September, in parking lots at the high school, Senior Center, the dog park at Shea Field, and on the School Street side of School Street Park. Drivers of electric vehicles can simply drive up, park and plug in. They do not have to be Agawam residents.
Marc Strange, the town’s planning and economic development director, said the proposed $1 fee covers an electricity supply cost of 60 cents per kilowatt-hour. The remainder of the fee is to offset the town’s annual subscription to the Chargepoint network. The network fee is a flat annual cost of $2,686, said Strange, which works out to 40 cents per kilowatt-hour, based on usage in 2020.
Strange pointed out that the town’s electrical supply costs are higher than the rate charged to residential consumers.
“Because use [of charging stations] is inconsistent and unpredictable, Eversource charges a significantly higher demand charge for using the stations,” Strange said. “When users plug their vehicles into their home chargers, the demand charge is much lower, because there’s a consistent draw of electricity from their home’s meter.”
He said the state-regulated utility company has been in talks with the state Department of Public Utilities about lowering its demand charges. This week, Grossberg asked the City Council to reopen its negotiations with Chargepoint and with Eversource, the local electrical utility. She said Eversource should adjust its rates in line with the residential cost, and Chargepoint should replace its flat administrative fee with a sliding scale based on usage. That way, Agawam can keep the consumer cost competitive with home chargers and private-sector charging stations, and the energy companies would be encouraging additional use of the charging stations.
City Councilor Anthony Suffriti, who chairs the council’s Legislative Committee, said his committee has delayed making a recommendation on the proposed fee while the town solicitor researches Agawam’s contract with Chargepoint.
Chargepoint, based in Campbell, Calif., describes itself as “the world’s leading EV charging network,” with 122,600 stations. Electric vehicle drivers can sign up for a free Chargepoint account to find and use charging stations.
©2021 MassLive.com, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.