One of two ChargePoint chargers, which power electric vehicles, sits in the parking lot outside the Starkville Sportsplex. Mississippi has 168 public charging outlets, including one in downtown Columbus, according to data from the U.S. Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels Data Center. Photo by: Tess Vrbin/Dispatch Staff
September 20, 2019 10:22:26 AM
Starkville Utilities installed two charging stations for drivers of plug-in electric cars Thursday in areas of the city that receive a great deal of traffic.
One ChargePoint charging station is downtown near the intersection of Jackson and Jefferson streets, behind Starkville Cafe and Hotel Chester, and the other is outside the Starkville Sportsplex. The city leased the chargers from the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association. Both can service any electric vehicle (EV) regardless of make and model.
"We had just barely gotten done when we already had one person come by to see if they could start charging, and we hadn't even publicized it," Starkville Utilities general manager Terry Kemp said.
The city conducted an analysis with Seven States Power Corporation, a Chattanooga-based nonprofit energy distributor, to decide where to strategically place the chargers, Kemp said. The board of aldermen approved a three-year lease agreement with the nonprofit on July 2 to install the chargers. The lease costs $500 per month for both charging stations.
The chargers will be free for the first month while the ChargePoint software measures how often they are used and how long an average charge is in order for the city to determine a reasonable hourly rate. A typical EV takes three to four hours to charge, and the average cost throughout the Southeast is around $1 per hour, Kemp said. Depending on the vehicle, a full battery can last up to 330 miles.
The chargers also serve as marketing tools for cities because they keep track of where the cars that use them come from, said Brad Rains, the TVPPA manager of distributed energy resources deployments.
"These things are really more economic development engines than they are anything," he said.
The presence of electric cars is growing both statewide and nationally, and Mayor Lynn Spruill said the city should keep up with the trend.
"We think it's important for us to meet a demand that is growing, and growing rapidly," Spruill said.
The city will likely install more chargers as the demand grows, Kemp said.
Cities with colleges in particular have high EV adoption rates regardless of population, Rains said. He drove to Starkville from Chattanooga to assist Starkville Utilities with the installation of the chargers.
Starkville Utilities has purchased an EV for its own use, and it will be delivered in the next few months, Kemp said.
Columbus installed its first EV charger in July, also from ChargePoint, at 300 Main St. in front of the Tennessee Williams Home and Welcome Center.
Mississippians drive electric vehicles at the lowest per-capita rate in the United States, but EV sales in the state doubled from 2017 to 2018, Matt Doude, associate director of Mississippi State University's Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, said in July.
The state has a low number of charging stations proportionate to the number of electric cars. There are 168 public charging outlets total, according to data from the U.S. Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels Data Center.
Electric vehicles will likely be a big part of the future, but the availability of chargers in public places is a regular point of concern for EV drivers, Rains said.
"It's something that gives them a little bit of anxiety when they leave their homes, (whether) they will be able to charge to get home," he said. "If you leave now on a gas engine, you don't worry about it because there's a gas station on every corner. That situation doesn't exist for electric vehicle drivers, so that's one of the future goals of American public power in general, to help spread the adoption of electric vehicles by taking a little bit of that fear away."
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