North Little Rock waives bidding requirements for electric vehicle charging stations

The quiet humming of electric car motors could soon be the next addition to the cacophony of the streets of North Little Rock.

In hopes of capitalizing on a state grant, the North Little Rock City Council approved a resolution Monday to waive bidding requirements for electric vehicle charging stations.

The resolution was added as a special call three days before Monday night's City Council meeting because city officials wanted to submit their proposal before the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality's first-come, first-served application period opens Feb. 2.

Mayor Terry Hartwick said if the City Council didn't waive the bidding requirements it wouldn't be able to submit the application, saying "if you don't apply by Feb. 1 you won't get anything."

The resolution, which the council passed unanimously, waives the formal bidding procedures required for most government contracts, such as local advertisements and sealed bids.

The city has selected North Little Rock-based Seal Solar to provide the equipment and installation for the charging stations.

The company also will complete the paperwork for the rebate, according to the resolution the council passed.

The resolution authorizes the city to purchase up to $300,000 worth of charging stations, up to 90% of which will be reimbursed through the grant program.

"They pay 90% of the cost," Hartwick said. "That's why I'm applying for it real fast."

With the rise in electric vehicle ownership, Hartwick has sought to expand the number of electric charging stations in the city since taking office last January.

Seal Solar chief operating officer and co-founder Josh Davenport said his company installed six electric vehicle charging stations in North Little Rock last year, which were mostly funded through a similar grant program with the Arkansas Division of Environmental Quality.

Davenport said the city's location with two major highways intersecting -- Interstate 40 and Interstate 30 -- make it a prime location for electric vehicle charging stations.

"North Little Rock is strategically placed on the corner of I-30 and I-40, and so as electric vehicle drivers drive through Arkansas it's a wonderful opportunity to have a captive audience that can be here for 30 or 40 minutes to eat at our restaurants, buy clothes, spend money and get to see our beautiful city," Davenport said.

The stipulation of the grant is the charging stations must be placed on city property and be open to public use. While the city hasn't finalized where the charging stations would go, Hartwick has eyed the Tennis Center in Burns Park, Argenta Plaza and the police station in Lakewood Village.

The city has the option to install either cheaper level two chargers, which can charge in eight hours or less, or it can opt for direct current fast chargers which take 30 to 40 minutes.

As part of the recent infrastructure bill passed by Congress, the Biden administration said it would allocate $5 billion to states to expand charging stations around the country as more consumers opt for more environmental-friendly vehicles.

Arkansas is to receive $54 million from the federal government for electric vehicle infrastructure.

Money from a federal settlement with Volkswagen also has gone toward funding charging stations in Arkansas, with Seal Solar installing charging stations at Tropical Smoothie and L'Oreal.