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A motorist driving an electric car down Route 78 someday might start to worry that the vehicle’s charge was getting low. Where, the driver might wonder, is a convenient charging station to top off the battery?
If that car is passing through Lebanon County, the likely answer is Myerstown, which earlier this summer installed a public charging station in the heart of the downtown businesses district.
“We’ve been trying to promote efforts to revitalize our downtown and try to attract more people here,” borough manager Michael R. McKenna told LebTown. “So now we have this EV charging station.”
To the best of his knowledge, he said, it’s the first public charging station in Lebanon County, although some car dealerships have charging stations on their lots. It’s similar, he said, to charging stations at Hersheypark and Tanger Outlets.
“People get range anxiety, they always have to know how far they are from a charging station,” McKenna said. “If they’re in range of Myerstown — say they’re going up Highway 78 — that might attract them to park, spend a couple hours charging up and maybe spend a little time at some of the places downtown.”
The charging station opened June 1 in the public parking lot at 6 E. Main Ave. According to a borough release, it’s a Chargepoint CT4000 All-Purpose Level 2 Charging Station, featuring two ports and a connection to the ChargePoint network.
Chargepoint, McKenna said, is the world’s largest community of EV drivers, and the Chargepoint app shows motorists where the closest charging stations can be found.
It doesn’t take up much room, he noted, and two parking spaces have been designated for its use. Because there are two ports, he said, two vehicles can use it simultaneously.
EV drivers can charge at the station for a fee of $1 per hour. The station charges at a maximum rate of 25 RPH (miles of range per hour) and can fully charge some vehicles in less than four hours.
“This charging station puts us on the map,” council president Bryan L. Rittle said in the release. “When EV drivers are checking their smartphone apps for a place to charge, they will know to come to Myerstown. While their car is charging, they can wander the shops and restaurants on Main Avenue, or take a short walk to one of our great recreation areas.”
McKenna told LebTown that the station was installed at minimal cost to taxpayers because of a rebate program through the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Mandated by Gov. Tom Wolf’s “Driving PA Forward” initiative, the program is funded by a $118 million settlement with Volkswagen Group of America “for cheating on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emissions tests,” the release states.
The charging station costs about $10,000, which was also the amount of the rebate, McKenna said. The borough’s financial responsibility was installation and providing electrical service to the site, but because two council members – Rittle, an electrician, and Ronald L. Ream, a contractor – volunteered their services, the cost to the borough was only about $1,000 out of pocket, McKenna said.
There should be minimal cost for upkeep, he added, noting that the station has a self-diagnostic tool that will inform borough officials if anything is wrong with the unit.
The charging station hasn’t gotten much use so far, McKenna said, although he said Chargepoint will soon begin sending them reports on its daily usage.
“We haven’t had much activity because of COVID – a lot of businesses were shut down – but now that we’re opening back up, we’re on the lookout for it,” he said.
Federal mandates are requiring more vehicles to have electric or hybrid electric engines, McKenna said. According to Goldman Sachs, 25 percent of cars sold by 2025 will have electric or hybrid electric engines, compared to 5 percent today.
“Putting this in at almost no cost, it was a no-brainer,” he said. “If this is the future of vehicles, let’s get one in Myerstown and try to attract people here.”
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