Jacksonville is about to get a charge, with the public debut of Chargewell, a partnership between the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization and JEA that will distribute electric vehicle charging stations throughout the city.
The program was announced at the Florida Alternative Fuel Vehicles Expo, where the TPO, JEA, Champion Brands and ThyssenKrupp Elevator discussed with the public their alternative fuel efforts.
The big announcement was the reveal of about 30 EV charging stations that would be established at businesses throughout the area to provide electric car owners a place to charge when they are away from home or visiting Jacksonville. The hope is a “build it and users will come” model.
“More charging stations will get people more comfortable about buying electric vehicles,” said Marci Larson, spokeswoman for the TPO. JEA is the first utility to partner in the Chargewell regional partnership, Larson said, and the TPO will continue to partner with other regional utilities through the program.
“Research shows,” said Peter King, customer solutions program manager for JEA, “that public charging infrastructure is a key piece of getting people to switch to electric cars.” (Click through the gallery to see some of the vehicles on display.)
The TPO is investing $300,000 — which comes from federal funding — into the project and JEA will install the stations at the selected businesses.
Businesses can now apply to host one of the stations. Applicants must be in a high-traveled area with public access and a JEA customer. A team will evaluate the applications, which are due on March 31.
“These are going to be dispersed as evenly as possible so they can reduce range anxiety for drivers,” Larson said.
The businesses can decide to charge up to 18 cents per kilowatt-hour, said King, or they can give the service to customers as a promotion.
He said the initial deployment of stations will get Jacksonville close to the ideal spacing for charging stations: about seven miles between each station.
King said the new stations will be hooked up to a network where key data can be determined from the stations and usage trends can be evaluated.
So far, about 266 EV owners plug in throughout Duval County. There are about 500 users in the five-county area and 15,000 users in Florida. King said the number of users increased 45 percent from 2013 to 2014.
EV users at the expo said they pay about 4 cents per mile and a gas equivalent of $1 per gallon.
The expo was also a chance for other alternative fuels to be highlighted. Earl Benton, CEO of Champion Brands, discussed his public-access compressed natural gas station. So far, he said, he and other fleets are using the station as a fuel-up for CNG-capable tractor-trailers. Tom Armstrong, director of fleet for ThyssenKrupp Elevator, said the propane-powered vehicles his company uses are ideal when the vehicles won’t be returning to a home base every night.
The diversity of alternative fuels is what will be key to getting the community to embrace cleaner energy, said Jeff Sheffield, executive director of the TPO.
“The options need to be diverse,” he said, adding that stations like Gate were adding EV charging and CNG fueling options on top of offering gas and diesel. “What we’re trending toward are energy stations. In the end, there won’t be one clear winner, it will be a blend of all of them.”
by Jensen Werley, Reporter- Jacksonville Business Journal