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Greenfield’s few electric car charging stations in need of TLC

Hybrid car using electric charging station at Energy PArk parking lot.  Recorder/Paul Franz

Hybrid car using electric charging station at Energy PArk parking lot. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

GREENFIELD — When state officials arrived in town on Earth Day last year, it was to give a shot in the arm to the town and to the sale of electric vehicles like Paul Teeling’s Nissan Leaf.

But the vehicle charging stations that then-Environmental Protection Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell presented to the town for its Miles Street and Chapman Street parking lots, as well as one installed at Greenfield Community College, are nearly all unavailable for motorists like Teeling, who had his car unplugged Thursday night after leaving it to be charged for a couple of hours.

“This is crazy,” Teeling said at 1:05 a.m., after he learned from his cellphone app that his car showed a charge of less than 4 miles. “I have to sleep in my car for two hours, and there’s a bunch of ‘freakazoids’ walking around this place, drunk and out of control.”

“Right now, it’s kind of a drag,” said Teeling, who works nights as a waiter in Greenfield. “One of the reasons I got an electric car was I knew they had charging stations, because I drive 35 minutes, 40 minutes to work, and I thought it was pretty awesome that Greenfield had one.”

The Miles Street lot, where one of the state-sponsored stations allowed a pair of vehicles to charge at the same time, had at least five cars sharing them, plugging in at different times, said Teeling.

“There might be a car charging, and I would just put a note on the windshield asking them to just plug me in when they were done there,” he said. But other times before, he said, he’s found his own car had been unplugged “for no reason, just for the hell of it,” and he’d been yelled at by people hanging out near the lot at night.

“It’s such a dicey location,” Teeling said of the lot at the end of the dead-end street that leads to Greenfield Energy Park. “Before (state officials) whip these out, they should think about where they’re putting them.”

Several months ago, he estimated, one of the station’s two charging cords was found ripped out by “vandals.”

Meanwhile, the Chapman Street charging station has also been eliminated temporarily because of reconstruction of the lot. There, in a location Teeling said was “at least not hidden off the main drag so much,” the device had been located in a former handicapped spot, limiting its availability.

“If it was on an island, so people could park on either side, four to six people could theoretically park in the same area to use the same location,” he said.

Carole Collins, the town’s energy and sustainability planner, said the Miles Street charger became cracked “about a month ago” when “someone drove off with the plug in, or it was separated from the unit,” so the town has been trying to replace the device, at a cost of about $1,500.

The Chapman Street charger was removed during that project, which is scheduled to take eight weeks. The lot’s new design, which will incorporate, also allows for the charger to be installed in a way that several cars can be parked nearby for charging.

“By the end of June, all should be operating,” she said.

Meanwhile, a twin charger at GCC has been only operable on one side since the winter, and the college has had difficulty getting parts for the second charger, according to Jeff Marques, director of operations.

Teeling said that if his Nissan is completely drained of its charge, it can take four hours to charge on the public device, but that generally, it takes him anywhere from two to four hours to recharge his vehicle.

Craig Bodenstein, sales manager at Toyota of Greenfield, said that most people that he knows with electric vehicles and relatively short drives can charge them at home overnight, and others can make arrangements to plug in at work, but he added, “A couple of years from now, I think (charging stations) will be readily available.”

In the last week and a half, Greenfield’s Big Y supermarket has located a parking-lot charging station near the store’s deli entrance.

Nancy Hazard of the Greening Greenfield Energy Committee said, “These are issues and conversations that have happened for years, about keeping chargers in good condition and about driving range of the vehicles. What we know is that they’re being used, which is exciting. As for the vandalism, a lot of things get vandalized, like trees. It’s sad, because it’s such a waste of public money. That’s a fact of life.”

State environmental and energy affairs spokeswoman Krista Selmi said in a written response to The Recorder’s questions, “While we most certainly keep in touch with municipalities and are here to assist them in any way with the charging stations, the maintenance of them is up to the cities and towns.”

The state has also unveiled a pact with seven other states to put 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025, so the states meet greenhouse gas reduction goals while also creating demand for a new generation of vehicles.

Massachusetts is preparing to go live this summer with a consumer program to provide rebates of $2,500 for fuel cell vehicles and plug-in electric vehicles with large batteries, and a rebate of $1,500 for plug-in electric vehicles with smaller batteries, said Christine Kirby at the Department of Environmental Protection. The state has also created a $2.5 million fund to offer incentives for municipalities and colleges to buy electric vehicles and install charging stations, and has put funding in place for about 15 fast-charging stations to be sited along interstate highways.

(State House News Service contributed to this article.)

On the Web:

www.plugshare.com

You can reach Richie Davis at: rdavis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, Ext. 269

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