Front Royal may add electric vehicle charger downtown

FRONT ROYAL – The town plans to enter the growing world of electric vehicles.

Town Council has endorsed a plan to install an AC charger near the gazebo, with the idea that such a device could help attract electric-vehicle users downtown. Council will take action on the proposal today.

The town would receive the charging station at no cost as long as it maintains the device and keeps it running for five years.

Some area dealerships that sell electric vehicles provide charging stations. In Strasburg, Tesla is installing stations specifically for its vehicles off Interstate 81. Charging stations near the Ramada Inn off U.S. 11 were also installed.

Front Royal staff had been looking into electric vehicle chargers for use in the area of the gazebo downtown when they discovered a program offered through Virginia Clean Cities, which will provide such devices to localities at no cost to the host. Virginia Clean Cities and ChargeUp continue to look for host sites in the state for chargers to address the growing popularity and use of electric vehicles.

Council spent some time mulling the concept, having discussed and posed questions about the matter at two previous work sessions.

Joseph Waltz, director of the town’s Department of Energy Services, said the program does call for the locality to cover the installation cost, estimated at about $1,000 for the material. The town would also need to cover the cost of the vendor-payment software at $600 for four years. Under the program, the town would be obligated to keep the charger maintained and operational for five years.

“The nice thing about this is once we sign up, we’ll be put on nationwide network so if anybody’s traveling in the area, from out of state or wherever, it’ll pop up that there is this facility located within the locality,” Waltz said.

Each charger usually costs about $28,000 and lasts 7-10 years, Waltz said. The warranty covers only the first year. Waltz said he’s waiting to receive a list from the manufacturer of the parts the town might need to replace during the five-year obligation. Even though more than a dozen are in use in the state, Waltz noted that no one has asked for that information.

The town needs to buy the software that tracks the use of the device and bills customers. That purchase also comes with 24-hour customer support for both the vehicle users and the town, should questions arise, Waltz said.

“At the end of the day, it’s a risk,” Waltz said. “But after talking to a couple of people that have this that are beyond their warranty period … nobody’s had any problems that they can speak of.”

The town can charge users in one of several ways, Waltz explained. While rates may vary depending on the locality that offers a charging station, most vehicles take about the same amount of time to charge on average, he noted. Front Royal could at least break even on the cost by charging less than what some other places charge, Waltz said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com