By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff
BANGOR, Maine — In hopes of spurring the popularity of electric cars in Maine, College of the Atlantic wants to put an electric vehicle rapid charging station at Bangor International Airport.
The EV50-PS public fast charging station, valued at $15,000, was donated to the college by Nissan North America, and College of the Atlantic wants to install it at the airport and leave it for anyone to use.
It’s unlikely people will be lining up to use the station. According to Alex Pine, a fourth-year College of the Atlantic student working with the airport on the project, there might be around 20 all-electric vehicles in the Bangor and Midcoast areas, but maybe 10 of those are equipped to handle rapid charging stations. Most currently use charging stations at home or at their Nissan or Chevy dealers.
Nonetheless, the college hopes an airport station will spark a trend.
“The electric vehicle is a chicken and the egg game,” said Lynn Boulger, dean of institutional advancement at College of the Atlantic, a small liberal arts school on Mount Desert Island with a heavy focus on sustainability, alternative energy and “being green.”
An increase in stations make owning an electric car a more viable option, she said.
COA has a solar-powered, slower-charging station on its campus, as well as two others at school farms in the area. The college uses an electric van to transport students using those facilities. Pine said the college might use that same van to take college guests to and from the airport.
The type of charging station that would be added at the airport isn’t intended for daily use. It’s made to be used along well-travelled highways, transportation centers and in rest stops, where people need to charge up quickly, in 10 to 30 minutes, as opposed to several hours, depending on the vehicle and the conditions. Daily use of these souped-up stations would damage the vehicle’s battery over time, according to Boulger.
Maine is far from being considered electric car friendly. According to plugshare.com, a website that lists charging stations across the nation, Maine has about 25 public stations. Most are located at Nissan and Chevrolet dealerships. That’s far fewer than most other New England states.
There currently are no high-power, fast-charging stations in Maine, but there are at least seven in eastern Massachusetts.
During a meeting of the city’s Airport Committee on Tuesday, airport officials rolled out the concept. Councilor Patricia Blanchette was concerned about the fact that the station would essentially be free for use, and the airport would be responsible for covering the electricity costs associated with each charge.
Pine and the airport are still working to determine exactly how much the electricity could cost if the installation goes forward, but early estimates indicate that each charge would be about $1.
That low price tag, the paltry number of electric cars in the area today, and the fact that the station shouldn’t be used for daily charges, mean the added electrical costs likely wouldn’t be significant for the airport, the largest electrical consumer in the city. However, if years down the line there are many more electric cars and the airport starts charging for use of the station to cover electrical costs, there might be significant pushback, Blanchette argued.
The airport and college are considering putting a small fee on use of the station, but the credit card swipe system costs about $1,000 per month to operate, a price that would be hard to justify unless the station were used by hundreds of cars each month, according to Pine.
Councilor Gibran Graham argued that the marketing potential of having an electric car charging station at the airport far outweighs a small addition to the airport’s electric bill.
Pine said the college and airport would continue to crunch the numbers to determine the potential electrical costs and bring their findings back to the council.
Eventually, COA would like to see similar fast charging stations at rest areas along Interstate 95, allowing limited-range electric vehicles to travel out of state, rather than just around their homes and dealerships.