More thoughts on charging stations

June 7, 2014

This letter is in response to a recent letter written by Bob Bruninga in regards to placing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at Rehoboth Beach.

We appreciate Mr. Bruninga’s good words about our idea to place high-quality charging stations in Delaware, designed so that one is never more than 50 miles from a location to charge. This program, conceived by the EV group at the University of Delaware and supported by DNREC, will help to eliminate the EV driver’s “range anxiety” of running out of battery power before reaching one’s destination.

We believe we have developed an efficient approach - the whole state can be covered for less than the cost of a single luxury EV with the big battery option! (Granted, Delaware is a small state, but charging stations can serve hundreds of EV drivers in Delaware, whereas putting a big battery in one car only serves the one buyer of that car.)

Mr. Bruninga makes an interesting case that EV drivers can charge without any actual charging stations, using only the standard 120v outlets found in some parking structures or by throwing an extension cord out from one’s hotel room. As EV drivers ourselves, we know this strategy! It can be useful in a pinch. But we would differ with the statement that a “socket hunt” replaces proper EV charging stations.

Using a standard 120v outlet, the driver will be waiting for 10 to 20 hours, versus a half hour to three hours using a proper Electric Vehicle Charging Station. (Some EVs can accept a charge more quickly than others.) It would be important to have at least some proper charging stations in a city such as Rehoboth Beach where thousands of visitors come for a day trip to the beach or for a few hours to shop or dine downtown. These day visitors can park, shop, swim, and/or eat, then go back home with a full charge.

We agree with Mr. Brunigna that electricity used for either type of charging is inexpensive, typically less than one pays to park in a metered parking space. Mr Bruniga makes the interesting suggestion that Rehoboth could pay for any electricity costs by simply using a parking meter that charges a few cents more at the EV spots. One nice thing about our DNREC-sponsored program is that it provides the charging station and electricity for free for one year, so Rehoboth and other program recipients can get some experience before deciding whether and how they would like to continue with EV charging.

Whether it makes sense to join the DNREC/UD program, and the decision whether to continue past the first year, would be made by the Rehoboth Beach Board of Commissioners.

Kathleen Harris and Willett Kempton
University of Delaware
College of Earth, Ocean and Environment

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