by Terry Rogers
At a recent workshop, Milford City Council discussed the possibility of installing charging stations for electric vehicles (EV). Public Works Director Mike Svaby presented information on the growing popularity of EVs as well as details on what it would require for Milford to install charging stations in the city.
“There’s over 113,000 chargers currently in the US, California is the state with the highest count with just over 41,000 chargers available,” Svaby said. “In order to properly tool up with the right charging systems, you have to understand what cars are selling the best. I’m pretty sure there might be somebody here in chambers tonight that may know just a wee bit about this. So, I I’ll defer at any time if there’s anything to add. But Tesla is the largest EV vehicle maker in the world. They have over 936,000 cars in 2021. They’ve also got the largest market capitalization of any car company, being a very unique type of car company, at $948 billion as of January 2022. So they’ve got money and they are spending it . Knowing that that is the magnitude we’re looking at this evening. It can still be said that 90 to 95% of charging of all vehicles still occurs at home”
Svaby also explained that traditional car companies are entering the EV market with Volkswagen leading the industry, selling 762,000 EVs in 2021 with a market cap of $134.6 billion. However, Toyota, in third place has earned the most from EVs, selling 563,697 in 2021 and earning $294.6 billion. Svaby stated that Tesla is a niche company even though they are a large part of the market. Currently, there are over 12,000 Tesla-branded chargers in North America with nine located in Delaware. The Tesla chargers in this state are placed as far north as Claymont, south to Rehoboth and west to Seaford. According to Tesla, an EV can be charged up to 80 percent of its capacity in about 30 minutes at a supercharger station.
“So, here’s a real interesting nugget on the Tesla chargers. They recently unveiled a faster V3 supercharger that is going to begin appearing here shortly in the next few months. This charger will allow a Model 3 long range operating at peak efficiency to recover up to 75 miles of charge in five minutes,” Svaby said. “That is so far ahead of even the ordinary Tesla charger, much less Levels 1 and 2 chargers. And most of you probably don’t know much about the charger, so I’m going to talk about that next. But that’s such a tremendous achievement. I mean, what it’s going to do, you’re going to be able to get 75 miles of charge in five minutes. That’s putting charge rates at literally up to 1000 miles in one hour. That’s going to reduce Tesla charging times by 50%.”
According to Svaby, there are three types of EV chargers available. A Level 1 provides two to five miles of range per one hour of charging. A Level 2 charger provides 10 to 20 miles of range per one hour of charging. Both Level 1 and 2 chargers only have a J1772 connector. The DC Fast Chargers provide 60 to 80 miles per 20 minutes of charging and offer three types of connectors, CCS, CHAdeMO and Tesla.
“So, as we started to investigate the supplier markets for these, we have retrieved at least one set of price quotations from a company called ChargePoint. They’re one of the leaders in this market,” Svaby said. “We’ve learned that the DC fast chargers are about $63,000 apiece. The Level 2 chargers are about $15,000 apiece but neither one of those numbers include site preparation costs, things like running the appropriate power source to do the actual physical charging. Charge units can be pedestal mounted or wall mounted. But either way, you obviously have to run the right charging and the faster the charger the greater the amount of power has to be present. Tesla vehicles can charge at any one of these with the right adapter. Some of them come with the purchase vehicle but they’re all available for the operators to buy. However, if there’s any other type of electric vehicle other than a Tesla, it can’t go to a Tesla charger with it. You have to go to a Level 1, Level, 2 or DC Fast Charger put out by someone other than Tesla.”
Once the type of charger has been chosen, Svaby stated that it was important to determine where to place the charger. He explained that the best place to locate chargers are areas where there are attractions, such as shopping, restaurants or service facilities. It is also important to keep in mind how long an EV will be parked in a charging location. The city also needs to choose location where they already have adequate power to install the chargers.
“We’re looking at the parking lot immediately behind Customer Service and the reason for that choice is the type of power that’s already available there,” Svaby said. “We have the power and the pump station. The other location we are looking at is Arena’s parking lot. Again, that’s the complimentary type of power necessary for Type 2 charger.”
As for funding the chargers, Svaby stated there are options that would allow the city to recover 90 percent of the equipment cost. In addition, Delaware received about $9.6 million in a lawsuit related to the Volkswagen diesel problem which has been placed in a trust fund. Those funds can be used to install EV chargers at 75 percent of all related costs. Money has also been allocated at the federal level to build EV infrastructure which could also provide funding. Prices provided to the city included a five-year warranty for the equipment. Svaby also explained that funding opportunities were available for private businesses as well as government should a local company wish to install their own EV charger. Svaby suggested council consider incentivizing the installation of the chargers.
“We recently had an inquiry from a large auto dealership about whether or not they are tooled with the correct amount of power to install 10 Level Two charging systems and, you know, just the purchase of that equipment alone by the prices that we’ve already we’ve seen is in excess of a half a million dollars,” Svaby said. “So, it’s a significant investment. After quoting the materials and labor for our electric division to outfit that and looking at the price of what the equipment would cost for that dealership, I wouldn’t be surprised if they if they reach out to us and ask if there’s any interest level on our part in sharing some of that cost. Some of the costs includes the permitting as well. Not the physical permit document but the impact fee for the additional electric and the transformer installation. And so that may happen looking forward. So, we should probably be thinking about, about that sort of thing.”
Mayor Archie Campbell asked how the chargers worked as far as paying for the electric used. Councilman Todd Culotta, who owns a Tesla, explained that owners have an account that can be accessed through an app on their phone. When he pulls up to a charger, he plugs in and the app charges him for the power used. Svaby stated that with the industry growing, there would likely be multiple apps available for this process. Councilman Jason James asked if Svaby had numbers on how many people in Milford owned EVs and Svaby stated that although he did not have a current number, there were 46 registered in the 19963 zip code a few years ago. Councilman James also asked about the locations chosen for the pilot of EV chargers.
“You said that’s where we have power we can get sufficient amount of power and we own the land. Okay. What do you foresee after test location?” Councilman James asked. “I know you mentioned the car dealer, but partnerships with someone like a Walmart, because not everybody goes to Arena’s. Not everybody can go in that parking lot behind Customer Service. You see where I’m going. Where people will have the access, that’s what I’m trying to get to. To find out a number and location and the plan after this pilot, what is next up, what were we trying to get to.”
Svaby stated that there had not been much thought put into locations beyond the pilot areas, but that he felt the city should move forward quickly while there was grant funding available. He pointed out that someone could choose to place EV charging islands on a vacant plot of land. If that person used grant funding, it could use the entire amount available to offset costs in other areas of the state. Councilman Culotta also pointed out that charging stations would bring people into the downtown area. Svaby stated that the Arena’s charging station, for example, would be just under four miles from Route 1 and around a mile and a half from Route 113. Signage on those highways could draw EV owners into Milford as they travelled to beach areas or further south. Councilman Culotta stated that this was an industry that was going to continue to grow, suggesting council be proactive.
“There’s a tradeoff. So, for example, that Arena’s parking lot on Taco Thursdays, it’s packed, or so I’ve heard. So, if you block off, let’s say five spaces like your diagram has or something like that, you’re not supposed to park there if you’re not in an electric vehicle. There is nothing worse than when you’re trying to pull up and you need to charge and there is somebody there, you know, unattended,” Councilman Culotta said. “So, it’s a trade off, but back to your point with the incentives, the Senate position, right now. There’s a one percent adoption rate in electric vehicles in the United States. When you see a Tesla or a Nissan LEAF or something like that driving around that’s only one percent of the total vehicles on the road. If we move to electric vehicles as a society in the next five or ten years, we are willfully under infrastructured, if that is a word, so to speak, for what the demand is going to be. Whether we do it ourselves or IG Burton does it because Chevy’s coming out with a truck or Hertrich because they’re coming out with the F150 Lightnings, it is going to change the game as soon as that’s released. You’ll see that everywhere. Then we should be doing something. Look, the goal here with electric vehicles is the environment, right? Less use of fossil fuels. So, we should incentivize that early on. There may be a time that we say okay, there’s enough out there that we can now charge impact fees, things like that, but right now, if you want to do it, we should be helping you as much as possible.”
Councilman James agreed with Councilman Culotta, stating that there was no turning back from EVs and that he felt it was time for Milford to begin looking at getting ahead on infrastructure. Councilman Culotta gave an example of difficulties for EV owners on the Eastern Shore.
“I wish they were everywhere. If I go from here to Virginia Beach, for example, I need to be well charged by Salisbury because there’s nothing between there and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge,” Councilman Culotta said. “Seaford just installed on 13. But that’s where we can really attract people on the Eastern Shore. We can be a place you can stop, charge. Enjoy yourself, spend your money and right now, electric vehicles really aren’t that cheap. I mean, the cheapest Tesla is $45,000. Right? So usually that is a relatively well-incomed person that’s got disposable income to spend and in our town. Another factor to consider. We went to Philadelphia and back yesterday, My Toyota Tundra, which it’s a truck so it’s not a real fair comparison, but it’s a truck, 28 cents a mile right now it cost me to get there and back. It was $45 to get it filled up yesterday. My wife’s Tesla, the same car, eight bucks and it’s about eight cents a mile. When you charge at one of the chargers, that’s about what we charge. When I did the calculation for Milford electric, I pay the same at home. So, it’s a real revenue generator for us too.”
Councilman Culotta told council it was time to change thinking because the infrastructure needed to be there before the EV market grew even larger. City Manager Mark Whitfield agreed, stating that municipalities were playing catch up with the EV market. He explained that there is a city in California that offers rebates to residents who tell the city they have an EV charging port at home.
“The reason they do that rebate is if they are five houses on one single transformer, they all come home at 5:15 in the evening, and they all plug the charger in at the same time. The chances of blowing a $7,000 transformer is pretty high, so giving a $200 rebate for folks to register their charger may help you avoid spending $7,000 to replacing a transformer at some point in future,” Whitfield said. “Again, that’s a ways down the road, I think. But those are the kinds of things we have to start thinking about with utilities now. How are we going to serve in the future because I do believe we have some infrastructure shortcomings that we’re going to have to address.”
Councilman Mike Boyle asked if the city and DEMEC could support the demand of EVs and Svaby stated that he believed there was with the large solar array and other forms of energy available, indicating that there was often more capacity than load. However, he did caution that this may not continue.
“I mean, it sounds great to think about generating all the green energy we can and ultimately one day replacing fossil fuel energy. The problem right now as we’re looking into it, but battery storage is pretty much an enigma.” Svaby said. “One thing that’s known is if we generate 100 units of solar energy, by the time we store it, so it can be used when the sun’s down at night and when the clouds are over the sun, and off peak. So, what is readily available as a fossil fuel, if it’s stored in a battery, you don’t get 100 units back out when you store 100 units. I mean, there’s limitations. And like I said, we’re exploring that. We’re in a position where we have to start to understand that.”
Councilman Katrina Wilson asked if the city installed Level 2 chargers, could they upgrade should technology improve, and the price come down for faster chargers later.
“I mean, judging by how every other piece of technology evolves, like your phone, for instance, you have more resources available in shorter time. We all want more. We want it faster. So, I personally could see the whole thing evolving toward fast chargers, which creates a difference in the need from the Level 2,” Svaby said. “I mean, anything’s possible with time and money. We serve customers in Milford with the highest end of power we can. If it becomes that lucrative or that needed a resource, it could certainly we could make it happen.”
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