COVINGTON — The city of Covington is continuing to diversify fuel options for its own fleet and the public and will soon install electric vehicle charging stations downtown.
The city will obtain the chargers through the EV Project, the largest deployment of electric vehicles and charge infrastructure in history. ECOtality, a company that researches and develops advanced energy systems, was awarded a $114.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to deploy thousands of chargers in major cities and metropolitan areas across the country. With partner matches, the total value of the project is now $230 million.
Covington is expected to receive several chargers — either those known as Level 2 chargers, which take between 8 to 10 hours to charge a vehicle, or fast chargers, which take 30 minutes, or a combination of the two types. City officials are hoping to obtain one or two fast chargers to install in downtown Covington, possibly behind the Historic Courthouse and/or behind the lofts, said grant writer Randy Conner. The hope is to draw folks downtown to shop and dine while they are charging their vehicles, Conner said. Chargers will also be installed at Emory and Stallings streets at the city’s Planning and Zoning Department. They are expected to be installed in early October.
The chargers can cost up to $80,000 each. The only cost to the city will be to run power from the service pole to the units, Conner said. He estimated that could cost between $2,000 and $3,000.
The city will also lease or purchase electric vehicles to replace a portion of its fleet, such as meter reading vehicles and those used by the administrative and planning and zoning departments, Conner said. With the cost to fuel an electric vehicle the equivalent of paying 25 cents per gallon for gasoline, the city could save as much as $3,000 a year on fuel costs for some vehicles, Conner said. The vehicles will likely be leased by the city as a trial for two years, he said.
ECOtality will maintain the charger stations, which resemble gas pumps, for two years and will retain a small portion of revenues.
At the end of two years, ECotality can remove the chargers and return the sites to their former condition at no cost or transfer full ownership to the city. During the initial two years, ECOtality will gather data for the Department of Energy on electric vehicle use in the area and the effectiveness of the charger infrastructure. The data will be used to prepare for the deployment of five million electric vehicles.
Electric vehicle batteries typically last 70 to 100 miles before recharging is necessary. Hybrid vehicles that switch between electric power and gasoline get greater mileage. Electric or hybrid vehicles currently on the market include the Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt and Ford Focus.
“The main problem with electric vehicles is the technology is not advanced to the point to make long-range travel economical,” Conner said. But as technology advances, that will change and the price of those vehicles will also drop, he said, adding that some are available now in the low $20,000 range.
The city is also preparing to break ground on a compressed natural gas fueling station and replace some of its fleet with CNG vehicles. In addition to the enviornmental benefits, Conner said city officials are trying to increase revenues without negatively impacting services to customers and citizens.