Giving Hutchinson a charge

Chad Bowers, right, and Ryan Anderson of Quade Electric installed Hutchinson’s first public charging station on Second Avenue Northwest, next to Girl Scout Park. It may be the first of more to come, according to Jeremy Carter, Hutchinson Utilities Commission general manager.

The Hutchinson Utilities Commission is leading the charge to making Hutchinson a more friendly community to people driving electric vehicles.

On Oct. 20, workers from Quade Electric installed the town’s first public charging station on Second Avenue Northwest, next to Girl Scout Park. According to Jeremy Carter, HUC’s general manager, the new Express 250 “fast charger” allows drivers to fully juice up their electric vehicle battery that has a full range of 250 miles on one charge in about an hour.

The cost of the new charger to HUC, including software and maintenance, was $49,930. The HUC Board recently approved a rate of 0.09052 cents per kilowatt hour, the cost per mile of which comes out to be about one-third the current price of gas. To put that into perspective, a Chevrolet Volt can go about 100 miles on 36 kilowatt hours, which would cost about $3.25 from Hutchinson’s new charger.

“The price was intentionally set low to encourage use of the charger,” Carter wrote in an email.

While this is the first public charger in town, it may not be last, and Carter is optimistic that future projects would be subsidized.

“HUC is also exploring and working with other companies to be a part of a corridor that would add more fast chargers along major highway routes,” he wrote. “Much of this type of funding would come from the Volkswagen settlement dollars allocated to the state of Minnesota. to build out infrastructure in the state in anticipation of an increase in (electric) vehicles.”

The settlement, which was made in 2016, required Volkswagen to pay $14.7 billion to settle allegations of cheating emissions. As part of the agreement, $2 billion of the settlement funds went to programs and infrastructure aimed at increasing public awareness of zero-emission vehicles.

Carter anticipates that any future chargers installed as part of the state corridor project would be paid for entirely by the settlement dollars, and potentially some of the initial software and maintenance costs.

HUC is also looking into other “Level 2” chargers, which are slower and not as costly as the fast chargers. These would only cost a couple thousand dollars, Carter said, and HUC could look for outside funding or include them as part of its capital improvement costs.

“HUC will continue to monitor the progress of EV penetration, regulatory changes at the state, and devise an additional phased approach to providing public charging stations in town,” he wrote.

Rebates are also available to private home or business owners interested in installing chargers on their property.

“HUC feels it’s important to be a leader in moving towards cleaner energy,” according to Carter.