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State plugs in electric car program

Grants given to towns that buy vehicles, charging stations

Recorder/Paul Franz
Lauding the charging station on Miles Street in Greenfield for electric and hybrid vehicles are Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Rick Sullivan, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Ken Kimmell and Deputy of Energy Resources Commissioner Mark Sylvia with Greenfield Mayor William Martin on Monday morning.

Recorder/Paul Franz Lauding the charging station on Miles Street in Greenfield for electric and hybrid vehicles are Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Rick Sullivan, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Ken Kimmell and Deputy of Energy Resources Commissioner Mark Sylvia with Greenfield Mayor William Martin on Monday morning. Purchase photo reprints »

GREENFIELD — What better day than Earth Day for the state to announce its new grant program to help towns and cities buy electric vehicles and what better place than Greenfield, in front of two recently installed electric car-charging stations near the Greenfield Energy Park?

The $2.5 million incentive program is an attempt to encourage increased deployment of electric vehicles in cities and towns, improve air quality, reduce reliance on foreign oil, and help Massachusetts attain its goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.

The new program, offering communities grants up to $7,500 per electric vehicle and up to $15,000 per publicly accessible electrical charging station, is the first of what the state plans will be other state incentive programs to increase electric vehicle deployment and encourage their use.

Towns and cities will have to apply to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection by June 30 to be awarded grants, which DEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell said should add 300 and 400 new all-electric or plug-in hybrids to the approximate 900 in use in Massachusetts today.

Kimmell said the program, funded with part of a $50 million surplus in vehicle inspection fees, is intended to encourage a greater market for electric vehicles like the white Toyota Prius plugged into a Miles Street charging station Monday morning.

“Our goal is to have these more widely used and widely seen,” said Kimmell.

Greenfield Mayor William Martin said the town doesn’t have any electric or hybrid cars in its fleet of nearly 100 vehicles, but that a state incentive of up to $7,500 could change that, much as tax credits do for individuals on their income tax forms. For now, the town has a 28 mile-per-gallon energy-efficiency requirement for new vehicles as part of its vehicle purchase policy as part of its Green Communities Act designation.

“This is just the beginning of the electric vehicle charging stations,” said Martin, standing beside the station installed last fall and free to users for the first year as one of 125 provided for statewide. “It has to start, and people have to know it’s a movement.”

The state’s new Electric Vehicle Initiative grew out of a meeting of more than 100 state energy and environmental officials, along with the Conservation Law Foundation, to find ways to increase local awareness of electric vehicles and strategies for encouraging their deployment across Massachusetts.

Monday’s event in Greenfield — among the first group of what are now 100 designated “green communities in the state” — was an attempt to draw attention to the state’s push for “municipal officials to showcase the electric vehicles and encourage your residents, when trading in their vehicles, to do the right thing and look at the options,” in the words of state Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard Sullivan. “Over the lifetime of an electric vehicle, the owner can reduce fuel consumption by more than 6,000 gallons of gasoline, reduce fuel costs by thousands of dollars and cut our reliance on foreign oil.”

The appropriateness of the Energy Park location for Monday’s event was pointed out by Nancy Hazard, who organized the Tour de Sol electric-car rally for 18 years for the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association on Miles Street.

“It’s a big day for me to see these becoming mainstream in the United States and Massachusetts,” said Hazard, who as a member of the Greening Greenfield Energy Committee found that gasoline was the number-one way that energy dollars spent in town left the community. While she acknowledged that “a key piece” of the electric vehicle energy strategy is to generate electricity with renewable technologies, Hazard also pointed at a photovoltaic array in the energy park that was originally a portable charging station for the Tour de Sol — and now provides electricity for NESEA’s Miles Street headquarters. And she said that nighttime charging of electric vehicles also makes efficient use of the off-peak energy supply.

Meanwhile, USA Today reported this week that sales of Toyota’s Prius hybrid vehicles is being hurt by falling gas prices.

Toyota had hoped to sell 250,000 Prius hybrids in its four various configurations this year, an impressive figure that would demonstrate how Americans are embracing the need for fuel savings.

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

Electric cars - nice idea- but, when will the governor and his EEA offiials come look at the gigantic solar "farms" in the Athol/Orange area? Also, when will they come look at biomass harvesting? Joe Zorzin (waiting to give the officials a tour of some solar farms which are nice, new, desert ecosystems)

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