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Fayetteville adopts regulations for electric vehicle chargers

by Stacy Ryburn | January 25, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.
Mel Collier prepares to plug in his wife's car Thursday, January 21, 2021, for a charge at one of the electric charging stations in the parking lot of the Collier Drug Store on Dickson Street in Fayetteville. The city adopted regulations for businesses to follow when installing electric vehicle charging stations in their parking lots, such as minimum voltage, signs and fees. Check out nwaonline.com/210124Daily/ and nwadg.com/photos for a photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/David Gottschalk)

FAYETTEVILLE -- The city has adopted standards for businesses installing electric vehicle charging stations as part of a larger plan to curb harmful emissions to the environment.

The regulations the City Council approved Tuesday deal with levels of electricity, signs and online access so users can find the stations on a cellphone app.

The move follows recommendations from the LEED for Cities and Communities program and the city's Energy Action Plan, said Peter Nierengarten, city environmental director. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, an initiative of the U.S. Green Building Council, a national nonprofit guiding environmentally friendly building design, construction and operation practices.

The city adopted its Energy Action Plan in January 2018, which outlines a number of ways to reduce emissions harmful to the environment, known as greenhouse gases. The goal of the plan is to have all city buildings and vehicles run entirely on renewable energy by 2030 and to have the entire city's power run on renewable energy by 2050.

Nierengarten said establishing regulations for publicly available electric vehicle charging stations will get the city a point toward accreditation with the LEED program. LEED accreditation guides administrators in best environmental practices and helps market the city as environmentally friendly, he said.

"This was one deficiency that we identified that we were able to get corrected," Nierengarten said.

The right direction

Collier Drug on Dickson Street has 10 chargers available to the public. Mel Collier, owner, said he's working on a deal to buy cars so he has an electric delivery fleet.

Collier said he figures the chargers will get some use in the meantime. For instance, people who drive from out of town to go to a Razorback game can plug in while they dine somewhere. Cost is $2 an hour.

The move will reduce operational costs for the store by forgoing the cost of gasoline and oil changes, Collier said. Plus, it just seems like the right thing to do, he said. His are the only electric vehicle charging stations on Dickson Street.

"I think it's the direction that all cars are going to go," Collier said. "If I can get ahead of the game, then so be it."

The city regulations require publicly available car chargers to have a minimum 30 amps on a 240-volt circuit, and be a Level 2 station or higher. Level 2 stations are midrange, between early models and a fast charger. Level 2 commercial chargers can provide an 80-mile range in about 3½ hours, whereas a fast charger can get the same mileage in about 30 minutes, according to the federal Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Stations also must be hooked up to a network allowing users to search for them on a cellphone.

The regulations apply to commercial, mixed-use, industrial and institutional zoning districts. Spaces with charging stations are to be reserved for electric vehicles only. Property owners can collect a fee from people charging, but the ordinance doesn't specify an amount.

Signs must be placed showing voltage, amperage and information on fees, use and safety. The property owner is responsible for the charging station's operation and maintenance.

Collier said his chargers meet all of the city's adopted standards. However, he felt the regulations are unnecessary. Businesses installing chargers or other green measures do so because they want to and will do it correctly, he said.

"All this says to me is the city wants more regulation and say-so on private property," Collier said. "That will not encourage many business owners to install, or even consider, EV charging stations."

City Attorney Kit Williams said any charging stations already in the city won't be subject to the new regulations. Violations could potentially result in the city's standard penalty for violating an ordinance, which is a fine up to $500.

Plugging in

There are 239 electric vehicles registered in Washington County with the Arkansas Office of Motor Vehicles, most of which are in Fayetteville, said Scott Hardin, spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, which oversees the office. Electric car owners have to pay an extra $200 annual registration fee to offset not paying a gasoline tax, according to a state law passed in 2019.

There are about 1.6 million electric cars on the road in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

A searchable database with the U.S. Department of Energy shows seven sets of electric vehicle charging stations in the city, mostly at car dealerships. The city has an outlet in front of City Hall. Whole Foods on North College Avenue has two.

Whole Foods installed its first electric vehicle charging station at its Austin, Texas, store in 2010. More than 250 of the 508 stores have chargers in their parking lots, according to a company spokesman.

Marc Geller, spokesman for the Electric Auto Association, a nonprofit group advocating for the use of electric vehicles nationally, said the trend is for more vehicles to go electric over time. However, charging likely will happen at home far more often than at businesses or fueling stations, he said.

More charging stations are popping up all over the country, he said, and it makes sense for a city to want to regulate them. The city's standards are reasonable, he said.

Geller said requiring stations to be hooked up to an online network could drive up costs for users. Many nonnetworked charging stations exist, and people can find them in a variety of ways, he said. For instance, the city could set up a webpage, and there are apps tracking all stations, regardless of whether they're part of a network, he said.

Those nonnetworked stations often are free, Geller said. Being a part of a network comes with a fee network providers charge property owners, he said.

"These network companies are out there making sure places like Fayetteville write into their regulations that everything be networked, because it then limits the options open to people," he said.

Nierengarten said the city will start setting up electric vehicle chargers at public parking spaces in city lots and parking decks within about 18 months. The plan is to use a share of the $14.6 million the state will receive from a $2.7 billion settlement fund from automaker Volkswagen. The company was forced to set up the fund meant to pay for projects to reduce carbon emissions after it lost a federal lawsuit in 2016 alleging fraud in emissions tests, in violation of the federal Clean Air Act.

The city is waiting on word from the state to start installing the chargers, Nierengarten said.

One of the electric car charging stations Thursday, January 21, 2021, installed in the parking lot of the Collier Drug Store on Dickson Street in Fayetteville. The city adopted regulations for businesses to follow when installing electric vehicle charging stations in their parking lots, such as minimum voltage, signs and fees. Check out nwaonline.com/210124Daily/ and nwadg.com/photos for a photo gallery.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/David Gottschalk)
One of the electric car charging stations Thursday, January 21, 2021, installed in the parking lot of the Collier Drug Store on Dickson Street in Fayetteville. The city adopted regulations for businesses to follow when installing electric vehicle charging stations in their parking lots, such as minimum voltage, signs and fees. Check out nwaonline.com/210124Daily/ and nwadg.com/photos for a photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/David Gottschalk)
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Fayetteville code

Publicly accessible electric vehicle charging stations shall have a minimum amperage of 30 amps on a 240-volt circuit and shall be a Level 2 charging station or higher.

Publicly accessible electric vehicle charging stations shall be networked for remote access to online management tools through an online portal known as an EVSE network.

Electric vehicle charging stations that are publicly accessible shall be considered an accessory use in all commercial, mixed-use, industrial and institutional zoning districts.

Publicly accessible electric vehicle charging stations shall be reserved for the parking and charging of electric vehicles only and information shall be posted indicating the space is reserved for electric vehicle charging purposes only.

Electric vehicle charging equipment must be designed to not impede pedestrian, bicycle or wheelchair movement.

Property owners may collect a service fee for the use of an electric vehicle charging station.

Information shall be posted identifying voltage and amperage and any type of use, fee or safety information related the electric vehicle charging station.

Electric vehicle charging stations must be maintained in all respects, including the functioning of the equipment. A phone number, email address or some other contact information must be provided on the charging equipment for reporting when it is not functioning, or for when other problems are encountered.

Source: Fayetteville

Stacy Ryburn can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @stacyryburn.

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