The first Level II electric automobile charging stations are coming to Redmond thanks to a grant from the from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA).
There will be a brief ceremony in front of City Hall at 15670 NE 85th St. on Jan. 13 at 1 p.m., after which the four stations — two at City Hall and two at Redmond’s Maintenance and Operations Center, 18080 NE 76th St. — will be open for public use.
The stations are part of the ChargePoint America Program, a $37 million project sponsored by Coulomb Technologies, Inc. ChargePoint encompasses roughly 5,000 charging stations in nine regions nationwide that were installed free of cost per an agreement that requires ChargePoint to collect data from the stations for two years to report back to the federal government, said Cathy Beam, a principal planner for the City of Redmond. The data, which is all anonymous, will be sent to Purdue University and Idaho National Laboratory to be analyzed to determine the stations’ success.
The city began considering applying for the program in the summer, so it has been about a six-month process. Beam said more manufacturers are deploying electric vehicles and the city wants to have the infrastructure in place to cater to the need for charging stations when it comes.
“You can’t have electric vehicles if they don’t have anywhere to charge,” she said.
Beam said the Level II status of the stations means they are give out 220 to 240 volts versus the 110 to 125 volts that come out of an average Level I home electrical socket. The higher voltage cuts down charging time.
“So you’re charging time is four to six hours versus eight (or more),” Beam said.
She added that Level I stations are great if you come home from work and plug in your car overnight; Level II stations are great if you’re out and about and just need a quick charge.
After consulting Bellevue-based Puget Sound Energy and looking at the cost of kilowatts per hour and other factors, Beam said the City of Redmond will be charging $4 to $5 per session, whether that session is the full six hours or less than an hour. She said they are charging per session because they have to carefully monitor the usage as it is illegal to resell electricity in Washington and they have to make sure the city is not making a profit. Users will be able to pay using their credit card, a preloaded key fob or a 1-800 phone number, Beam said.
The four charging stations will also be wirelessly connected to the national ChargePoint Network, which users will be able to access through a computer or smart phone by downloading an application. Beam said this will allow users to search for the nearest charging station as well as reserve a station if needed.
Beam said she has not received any direct feedback about the charging stations, but has heard people discussing the idea at city events and meetings. So, she does not really have a sense of how the stations will be received or how much they will be used because the resurgence of electric cars is just beginning.
“We’ll just have to see how it goes,” Beam said. “Part of this is ‘chicken and egg.’ Which comes first (electric car users or charging stations)? We’re hoping they will dovetail nicely.”