Bellefonte lessens ‘range anxiety’ with electric car charging stations

In an effort to decrease its carbon footprint and lessen what Mike Shadow, chief executive officer of Sun Directed, called “range anxiety,” the Bellefonte Borough is looking to install additional electric vehicle charging stations in town.

Electric vehicles emit zero carbon emissions and require less maintenance, so in an effort to educate the public on the benefits of “driving electric,” borough officials and Pittsburgh Region Green Cities hosted a Drive Electric PA Coalition workshop on Friday. Attendees were invited to ask representatives from PRCC, Tesla and Nissan questions and drive their electric models.

“As of July 2019, there’s 25,000 public charging stations in the United States,” said Rick Price, executive director of PRCC. “Eighty percent of the public charge (while) at home or at work.”

With 41 different types of plug-in and battery electric vehicles on the market, Price said battery life lasts for about eight years or 100,000 miles. With three levels of charging — one, two and three — Shadow said finding a place to charge is not as difficult as it might seem.

“Every electric vehicle that is sold today has access to level one charging,” Shadow said. “Almost every home in the United States has level one charging already there, so you are actually closer to a level one charger when you’re driving an electric vehicle than you are to a gas station — most of the time.”

The screen in an electric Ford Focus shows the battery. Abby Drey

Most people, Shadow said, use levels two and three to charge, depending on how long they need to charge for. While level one requires more time, Shadow said there’s always a charging option available if a driver runs out of energy while traveling.

“They plug in their car as they plug in their cellphone every night,” Shadow said. “So you recharge your car every night. Your car’s charged up in the morning. You leave with a full tank.”

Instead of a gas meter, electric vehicles come with mileage readers. Ranges vary based on the vehicle make, but there’s no guessing as opposed to when the fuel light comes on in a gasoline car.

“The meters on electric vehicles are extremely accurate, so if it says you have five miles, you have five miles,” Shadow said.

With over 17,000 miles on his car, Price said he’s only needed to have the oil changed once. He added that his pool motor had a greater impact on his electric bill than his car charger ever did.

Rick Price, executive director of Pittsburgh Region Clean Cities, talks about electric cards during an information session in Bellefonte on Friday. Abby Drey

“You don’t see it on your electric bill,” he said.

Bellefonte installed its first charging stations in May. They can be found at the parking lot near CVS on Potter Street and behind First National Bank on North Allegheny Street.

When installing charging stations, Shadow said it is important to put them in central locations but mark them clearly enough so that drivers don’t mistake them as parking spaces. If funding is secured from the Department of Environmental Protection Fuels Incentive Grant, the borough hopes to install two more charging stations at the parking lot behind the Waffle Shop on West Bishop Street.

While some stations make drivers pay to use charging ports, Bellefonte Borough Council President Joanne Tosti-Vasey said the borough has to examine its electric bill before it decides to implement fees.

Pam Adams, COG refuse and recycling administrator, and Patton Township Supervisor Betsy Whitman test drove electric cars from Tesla and Nissan. Adams said she hopes to switch to an electric car within five years.

“It’s a growing market. It’s not 100% for everyone,” Price said, adding that educating the public about accessibility is key to increasing the number of electric cars on the road.

In State College, borough parking department and the sustainability committee recently received a grant that covered the cost of installing six universal electric charging stations at the Beaver Avenue Garage. Additional stations can be found at select hotels, grocery stores and gas stations. The Beaver Avenue charging stations will be available for public use on Monday.

Marley Parish reports on local government for the Centre Daily Times. She grew up in Slippery Rock and graduated from Allegheny College.