State grants juice up incentive to drive electric car in region

Drivers of electric cars will soon have more places in southeastern Connecticut and throughout the state to recharge their vehicles, and for three years — for free.

Grants announced Monday by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will fund construction of 56 new charging stations at 42 locations, including three in New London County: at the city-owned Water Street Parking Garage in New London; at Illiano’s Grill at 257 West Town St. in the Yantic section of Norwich; and at Hendel’s Henny Penny convenience store and gas station at 973 Hartford Road (Route 85) in Waterford.

“Drivers will be able to juice up any time they please at no cost,” said Alex Kragie, deputy chief of state at the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. DEEP is administering the grant program.

After that the charging station owners will make their own arrangements for payment. Typically, credit card systems are used, Kragie said.

The three new stations are in addition to seven existing stations in the southeastern Connecticut region: at Norwich Public Utilities, Nissan dealerships in Groton, Norwich and Old Saybrook, Crest Ford in East Lyme, the Old Saybrook Inn and National Grid offices at 300 Atlantic Ave. in Westerly. Statewide, there are about 100 existing stations.

“Our intent is to get as many charging stations as we can into the market in Connecticut,” Kragie said.

The new charging station at the Water Street Parking Garage will be used as a marketing tool to bring people into New London, said Joseph Celli, manager of the garage.

“The idea is to encourage people to use the station, and to give them coupons for the coffee shops and restaurants and shops downtown to go to while their vehicle’s charging,” he said. “It’ll bring more feet on the street.”

The $4,000 grant the city will receive will be added to $12,000 the city’s Parking Commission has budgeted for the project, Celli said. Two stations each capable of charging four cars at a time will be built. One will be “highly visible” on a paved area outside the garage facing the ferry terminals and train station, and the other will be inside the garage.

“We’ve already been meeting with electricians and working on getting the building and zoning permits,” he said.

Electric car drivers will be able to locate the charging stations through cell phone apps and on DEEP and state Department of Transportation websites, Celli said. No appointments will be needed.

“People can just show up,” he said.

Grants were also awarded in eastern Connecticut for stations in East Haddam, Guilford and Madison and two at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.

Adding the 56 new stations will help alleviate “range anxiety” for owners of electric cars, Malloy said in a news release.

“Our goal is a network of charging stations that allows anyone driving an electric vehicle to travel anywhere in our state with total confidence that they will be able to recharge their car battery when necessary,” he said.

The grant funds have already been distributed and construction of the stations is expected to begin soon. According to the terms of the grant, the stations must be operating by Jan. 1, Kragie said.

Funding for the grants, which total $135,946, comes from provisions of the April 2012 settlement agreement with the state that allowed for the merger of Northeast Utilities and NStar. The grants are being awarded to 36 municipalities, businesses, college campuses and organizations. Some will install charging stations at multiple locations, and others will build charging stations that can service multiple vehicles at once.

The grants range from $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the specific requirements of each project and the technology being used. The grants will cover part of the cost of hardware and installation, with the remaining funds coming from the grant recipient.

The grant announcement follows last week’s announcement of an agreement among the governors of Connecticut and seven other states to promote the use of so-called zero-emissions vehicles in order to put 3.3 million of them on the road in the next dozen years. Malloy said the grants will help Connecticut meet the goals of the eight-state agreement.

DEEP Commissioner Daniel Esty said that expanding the use of electric cars will cut costs for drivers, while also improving the environment and public health by reducing carbon dioxide emissions from gas-powered vehicles.

“Cars and trucks burning gasoline and diesel are one of the largest sources of air pollution and greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change,” Esty said. “By reducing the number of them on the road, we will clean our air, combat climate change, and reduce the incidence of respiratory ailments among our residents.”

William Dornbos, Connecticut director of Environment Northeast, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, said the program is “a tremendous signal to consumers that now is the time to buy an electric vehicle.”

j.benson@theday.com

Where to charge up

Recipients of vehicle charging station grants include:

• City of New London, $4,000 for two indoor-outdoor units at the Water Street Parking Garage with capacity for four cars.

• Hendel’s Henny Penny convenience store and gas station, 973 Hartford Road (Route 85), Waterford, $4,000 for two outdoor wall-mounted units.

• Illiano’s Grill, 257 West Town St., Norwich, $2,100 for one outdoor pedestal unit.

• Ballek Garden Center, 900 Maple Ave., East Haddam, $2,000 for one outdoor wall mounted unit.

• Davis Realty, 837-12 Boston Post Road, Madison, $5,000 for one outdoor pedestal unit.

• Perk on Church, 20 Church St., Guilford, $5,000 for one outdoor pedestal unit.

• University of Connecticut, Storrs, $4,000 for two indoor pedestal units at the north and south parking garages.

For information, including a map of existing vehicle charging stations, visit: www.ct.gov/DEEP/EVCT.

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