Rehoboth Beach officials were less than charged up by a proposal to operate an electric vehicle charging station in the city, but they have agreed to look into the possibility.
The proposal is part of a collaborative effort by the University of Delaware and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to install charging stations throughout the state.
Dr. Willett Kempton of the university’s Center for Carbon-Free Power Integration, said electric vehicles, while energy-efficient, have a limited battery range. Research shows most electric cars require charging every 70 miles, so they would need a recharge for a trip from Wilmington to Rehoboth.
Kempton said most charging stations in Delaware are privately controlled or are not easily accessible. A vehicle charging station already exists in Rehoboth at a private residence on Sussex Street.
What Kempton proposes is to establish public recharging stations near major Delaware roadways. Kempton said the plan is to put charging stations at the I-95 welcome center in Newark, in Dover, Bridgeville, Wilmington, Christiana Mall and Rehoboth.
Kempton said Rehoboth is appealing because of its popularity as a summer destination. He said the goal of the project is for Delaware to have a charging station every 50 miles. The charging stations can recharge a car in an hour or less.
Intrigued by the idea, commissioners Stan Mills, Mark Hunker and Lorraine Zellers said the idea merits investigation.
Less convinced was Mayor Sam Cooper, “I’m agnostic on electric cars. If you want one, fine, but you got to know what you are buying. You can’t expect to be bailed out by the city of Rehoboth Beach. If there is a demand, it’s ripe for some private entity to do it.”
Cooper said a hotel would be a perfect example of a private entity that could set up a station and market it to attract people.
“If it’s a selling point for them, why should we be competing with them on a free basis with public money?” he said.
Commissioner Patrick Gossett asked Kempton if the Tanger Outlets had been approached as a station location. Kempton said the ideal place would be in town Rehoboth, but the outlets would be considered if no location is found in Rehoboth.
Hunker said the city attracts people with gas-powered vehicles for all kinds of reasons. “What is the problem attracting someone with an electric vehicle?” he said.
Kempton’s proposal for Rehoboth is to install a charging station in one or two existing parking spaces. The station would be maintained and owned by the city. Kempton said maintaining the station would require very little cost from the city.
The university undertook the project in response to the federal government setting a goal of 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. The university has already installed stations around campus as a test, Kempton said. The project is working on an $80,000 budget. Kempton said electric vehicles would become more popular if there are more places for people to charge them.
The commissioners agreed to have City Manager Sharon Lynn investigate the possibility of a station.