Published January 17. 2014 2:00PM Updated January 18. 2014 12:05AM
New London — Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio and the state deputy commissioner of energy and environmental protection flipped the switch on a new era Friday during a dedication ceremony for the city's new electric-vehicle charging stations.
"This marks another step ... in making New London the environmental leader in the state of Connecticut," Finizio said at a charging station outside the Water Street Parking Garage.
Deputy Commissioner Macky McCleary said new charging stations being installed around the state are reducing the public's "range anxiety" — a fear by drivers of electric vehicles that they will run out of power before they can find a place to plug in. Within the next year, he said, the aim is to ensure that there is no place in Connecticut that is more than 20 minutes away from a charging station.
"We're kicking open the door to the future we promised ourselves decades and decades ago," McCleary said on a bright, sunny day, battling to speak through train horn blasts coming from nearby Union Station. "The time is now. Welcome to the future."
Alex Kragie, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's deputy chief of staff, said Connecticut's goal is to be the first state in the nation to move from range anxiety into range confidence. "We're making tremendous progress on the buildout," he said.
The Water Street garage has two "quad unit" charging stations marked as Juice Bars, one inside the facility and another outside. Each unit has two Level 2 chargers, suitable for completing a charge in two hours, and two Level 1 chargers for overnight repowering.
Tolland-based Garage Juice Bars is the supplier of the machines. They were funded with a state grant and money from the city Parking Commission.
The New London charging stations are the latest changes to the Water Street parking garage. In the past several months, the garage has added new elevators and undergone an extensive structural renovation as well as aesthetic changes under the leadership of manager Joseph Celli.
Other plans include changing the garage's lighting to low-energy-cost LED illumination and the possibility — still being explored — of installing solar panels on the roof. The lighting changes alone should save management company Propark about 50 percent of its current electrical costs, allowing Celli to offer the use of the electric charging stations at no cost to the public.
Paul Wessel, executive director of the New Haven-based Green Parking Council, remembered that his father used to take electric trolleys to school and noted that in the early part of the 20th century electric cars were the vehicles of choice for many. "What's old is new," he said.
Speaking in front of a sign that read "The Nature of Parking is Changing," Wessel said the city's new charging station in the middle of a transportation hub is part of a thoughtful plan for the country's energy and environmental future. "I can't think of a better location in Connecticut to do something like this," he said.
Celli drove a privately owned Chevy Volt into a parking spot outside the city garage and watched as Finizio and McCleary plugged the car in for the first official charge of a new transportation era.
"I guess this is a kind of historic moment in the history of New London," Celli said.