Electric car advocates raise awareness
Delaware’s chapter of the Sierra Club, DNREC, and several other partners hosted an electric vehicles awareness event Tuesday as part of National Drive Electric Week.
According to the US Department of Energy, Delaware has 41 public electric vehicle charging stations with 124 outlets.
DNREC continues its effort to boost those numbers by offering rebates for the installation of charging stations at homes, commercial businesses or workplaces. It also offers incentives for purchase or leasing of electric or hybrid vehicles.
Kathy Harris is a clean transportation planner at DNREC. She says since the rebate programs began in 2015, DNREC has given out 850 rebates for alternative fuel vehicles and 244 rebates for electric vehicle charging stations.
That’s helped add more stations between northern Delaware and its southern beaches, where there is a concentration of public charging opportunities.
“We actually recently had Delaware Route 1, Route 113 and 13 designated as Alternative Fueling Corridors, which means there are charging stations within 50 miles on those corridors,” she said.
She says the main focus now is charging stations at workplaces, so electric vehicle drivers can effectively double their range. But that’s not the sole priority.
“People have been saying that they really want charging stations at places they’re going to go, places like the malls, like restaurants, grocery stores, places that they’ll be,” said Harris.
DNREC’s rebate program for commercial businesses reimburses 75 percent of the cost of a charging station, up to $2,500. Harris hopes that will encourage more charging stations at malls and grocery stores, though she admits DNREC has no targeted outreach program to big commercial locations.
Tuesday’s event drew some enthusiastic electric vehicle owners, like Paul Cox. Cox owns an all-electric Tesla model S — which uses Tesla-only charging stations.
He says he has no range anxiety — or fear he’ll run out of charge before he reaches his destination. But he says when he used to drive non-Tesla electric vehicles, that wasn’t the case.
“If I didn’t have a Tesla I’d be struggling. The charging network’s not there,” he said.
He says one frustration he faced when driving a non-Tesla EV was the lack of consistency among public charging stations— some were free, but many required different online accounts to use.
DNREC’s Harris says that the current charging station rebate program only requires that charging stations be AC Level 2 chargers, which charge 10 to 20 miles worth of batteries in one hour.
University of Delaware researcher Dr. Willett Kempton says the state’s charging network is a limitation to electric vehicle adoption here — but adds that’s the case across the country.
The current rebate program has been extended until the end of 2019.
National Drive Electric Week is sponsored by Sierra Club as well as several automobile industry sponsors.
This story has been updated to include more details about rebates DNREC has given out.