HAWTHORNE, NJ - Council President Frank Matthews in his address at the Borough Council Reorganization Meeting mentioned he would be looking at quality of life and administrative issues. One of those quality of life matters was the installation of an electric vehicle charging station. "The Environmental Commission told us last year that it was something they were interested in doing," Matthews told TAPinto Hawthorne, "but it was too late in the year to get any grant money and it was almost $10,000 by the time they were running the electric and everything for it. But this year the state announced they are pushing for municipalities to buy electric cars for things like police and DPW. I read that the grants are being offered to towns that are requesting them, so I thought this is a great opportunity."
The proposed location of the potential charging station would be on the south side of the Louis Bay 2nd Library on Jefferson Place, between Lafayette Avenue and Grand Avenue. "We picked the library because we'd like to bring people downtown if we're going to offer an area," Matthews said. "One of the things we talked about last year was that, I'm all for being green, but why should we give away electricity for free if I don't get gas for free? It would be something where you swipe your credit card and there's a nominal fee to cover the cost of the electric. We're not looking to make money, just to cover costs, and if it helps the local businesses that's a bonus to keep people in town for an hour or two. This way you can go to lunch or go downtown while it's charging. It'll bring you into the community and whatever it costs, at least the town isn't buying your electric. There are more and more electric cars coming--we want to be able to react to that and it makes sense. And if there's free money from the state, why wouldn't we take advantage of that to offset costs?"
Craig Cayetano, former Green Party candidate for Ward 3 and member of the Hawthorne Environmental Commission's Green Team, works for Park Ave BMW and deals with electric vehicles on a daily basis. "It piqued my interest when the council brought it up. I've been a big supporter of electric vehicles and charging stations for years and proposed this to them last year." Cayetano said he brought electric and hybrid vehicles to display at the annual Cel-Earth-Bration held at Hawthorne High School.
Environmental Commission Chair Rayna Laiosa said, "We've been talking and we're going to start preparing what we need to do. I have a company that I've met with and there's another I want to reach out to. We'll go for the plug-in: that's one grant from Clean Energy and DEP. The grant is about $5,000."
Cayetano, when asked about the specifics on charging stations, said that different companies have different levels of visibility for drivers looking for a place to charge. "I always recommend using a reputable company, something that will be searchable, show up on a few networks and grids. People might be traveling by and need to charge up, so they'll go into town. Some towns will offer charging for free, some may charge a dollar or two an hour, so if you're in the area and need a quick top off which will give you about 20-25 miles in an hour on a standard level 2 charger." Cayetano said public charging units may range from about $4,000-$7,000 depending on the model.
Cayetano recounted a situation where a shopping center in neighboring Fair Lawn installed a charging station from lesser known company that failed to maximize its potential. "They had a non-name brand for years and I said 'this isn't getting you any exposure'. So, they ended up putting in a ChargePoint charger and now more people use it because it shows up on a grid."
Usage data could be gathered from a charging station, Cayetano said, allowing the borough to see what kind of impact it has had. A driver searching for a station would be able to use software to find Hawthorne's and make use of it. "[The search app] says 'Hawthorne, NJ' and tells you if it's available or being used," Cayetano said. "The town pays a fee for the software but then you can see utilization, see the peak hours its being used, and it's obviously a positive since most towns that have installed them have people using it. Secaucus has three charging stations, and they're always used. It can draw in other business which is why this is a key thing for towns to consider depending on where you put them."
Cayetano also thinks that this can be a start for further electric charging expansion. "If we were to put another charging station down by the municipal swimming pool, people can use the strip mall half a block away. They can go into that shopping plaza and you cover two ends of town with stations."
For skeptics who might roll their eyes at the thought of fossil fuel-powered vehicles ever "going the way of the dinosaur", Councilman Bruce Bennett would disagree. "Electric cars are coming," Bennett said. "We know that because the Detroit automakers are all shifting their resources away from further development of internal combustion engines to the development of hybrid and electric vehicles. Companies like Tesla have proven that electric vehicles work. What has slowed their widespread adoption is a combination of battery/charging technology and lack of infrastructure."
Cayetano mentioned state legislation, including a bill to end up mandating more charging infrastructure to come to New Jersey. "There's also a bill to try to get any electric car that, for every mile of electric range it has, a $25 subsidy up to $5,000, so if a car has over a 200 mile range, you're going to get a rebate of up to $5,000 for the car."
This law would apply to vehicles valued at or less than $55,000, according to Electrek.
"They're also trying to see about some for electric hybrids," Cayetano said, "but that is a lot less, and also to force NJ Transit to go to electric and mandate that they have to buy a certain percentage of electrified replacement vehicles over the next decade." As of this writing, neither Hawthorne's LD38 Senator Joseph Lagana, nor Assemblymembers Chris Tully and Lisa Swain were listed as co-sponsors of the aforementioned legislation.
"Maximum range for a fully charged electric car is currently, on average, 200-250 miles," Bennett said. "Recharging it at a 7kW charging station takes eight hours! Guess what? That banzai 750 mile overnight run from Indianapolis to Hawthorne that I make every Memorial Day to get home in time for the parade--the one that now takes twelve hours--would take thirty-six hours in an electric car! Assuming I could find charging stations when I needed them. No American road warrior, who is accustomed to a choice of gas stations at every exit and a 10-minute rest stop to pee and refill the tank, is going to willingly make that switch. Would you? Detroit, and the rest of the automotive world, is working feverishly on solving the battery/charging time problem. In the meantime, America needs to put the infrastructure in place to support widespread adoption of electric vehicles, just like we had to put in the gas station and roads infrastructure when the automobile was invented. So yes, I support stepping up and installing a charging station. It’s a baby step, maybe, in the greater scheme of things, but it’s a baby step in the right direction."
If the charging station was installed, there would be some changes made to the street. To designate the charging spaces, the curbs would be painted green and parking lines added on the street. There would also be a need for a sign to declare the spaces were only for electric cars and warn off other drivers from simply taking the spaces, defeating the purpose of the charging station.
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