To support the replacement of petroleum-based vehicles, the Los Alamos County Department of Public Utilities (DPU) is working to add more electric vehicle charging stations to various public facilities throughout the County.
DPU Engineering Associate Ben Olbrich said the project includes six chargers at four different sites. The charging stations will be DC Fast Chargers, which can deliver 60 to 80 miles of range in 20 minutes of charging, and Level Two chargers, which can deliver 10 to 20 miles of range per hour of charging.
He said a DC Fast Charger will be installed at the Municipal Building parking lot and a Level Two charger will be offered at Mesa Public Library. Additionally, two Level Two chargers will be installed at the Los Alamos County Golf Course and White Rock Visitor Center will offer two Level Two chargers and one DC Fast Charger.
Olbrich said these locations were selected based on their proximity to entertainment, restaurants, ADA accessibility, major roadways, signage and site lighting.
The total cost for the Level Two chargers is estimated at $15,000-$20,000 each, Olbrich said. He added the DC Fast Chargers cost about $100,000 each.
These are not the first electric car charging stations the County has had installed. There are now charging stations at the Municipal Building, the Los Alamos Nature Center and the Betty Ehart Senior Center.
Olbrich said the stations are free of charge, however, there is no way to gather any metrics on usage nor is there any way to communicate to users if a station is out of service. So the plan is to upgrade these stations and all of the stations will charge a fee.
Olbrich said it isn’t known right now what that fee will be but “we’ll try to keep it reasonable and fair.”
DPU Deputy Manager Steve Cummins said at minimum, the fees will cover the cost of power.
There are multiple reasons why DPU is perusing this project.
Cummins explained that a number of energy policies were adopted for DPU and one of them was “supporting the replacement of petroleum-fueled vehicles. We believe this project is right in line with that.”
Furthermore, he said visitors are coming to town to check out Bandelier National Monument, Valles Caldera National Preserve and the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. While residents can easily charge their cars at their houses it is a different story for these out-of-towners.
“A lot of our thought process was catering to visitors to the community,” Cummins said.
Olbrich pointed out that the new stations and the upgraded ones also will offer better service for customers.
Although the project is not contingent on it, DPU is pursuing a Light Duty Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment Program grant through the New Mexico Environment Department to fund the new charging stations.
In addition, Cummins said the department budgeted $150,000 this year for the project.
Olbrich said applications for the grant are due Nov. 15. While it isn’t yet decided just when the Environment Department will select the grant recipients, Olbrich estimates it to be around the January 2020 timeframe. The targeted construction completion date is the second or third quarter of next year, he said.
The Environment Department has a total of $17 million to give away in grants and Olbrich said potentially the grant could fund up to 100 percent of the Level Two chargers and 75 percent of the DC Fast Chargers.
He explained that the grant is funded from the Volkswagen settlement. In 2015, the automotive company was caught cheating on its emissions tests. Olbrich said 15 percent of the grant money is designated for electric charging stations. As a result, he said DPU decided to apply to help fund its project.
“We see this as a good opportunity to get a piece of the pie,” Olbrich said.
The County has seized the opportunity to support electric cars over gas-fueled ones in other ways. DPU is replacing one of its gas-fueled cars that is scheduled for retirement with an all- electric car. Atomic City Transit earned a $1,859,370 Low-or No-Emission (Low-No) grant from the Federal Transit Administration to procure one electric bus in fiscal year 2019 and a second bus in fiscal year 2020. One electric bus will replace a gas-powered one and the other will be an additional vehicle to the fleet.
Even DPU staff have turned to electric cars for their personal vehicles. DPU Manager Philo Shelton drives an electric car, Cummins said, adding that three Board of Public Utilities members also drive electric cars including Kathy Taylor, Carrie Walker and Steve Tobin.