PORTSMOUTH — People in Portsmouth Sunday got a great chance to see and learn more about electric cars as a National Drive Electric Week event was held in the Bridge lot downtown.
In keeping with the national movement, Gov. Chris Sununu declared Sept. 14-22 to be New Hampshire Drive Electric Week.
“Signed in 2003, Granite Clean Cities is a coalition of 140 stakeholders, both public and private, looking to reduce the use of petroleum products (gasoline),” said Jessica Wilcox, Granite Clean Cities coordinator and grant manager for the air resources division of New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services. “We look at many other products but are here today in support of electric vehicles and the efforts to make charging stations more available.”
Many people, while they may be interested in electric cars, think they are too costly (average of $30,000), and they do not know much about them and their current capabilities.
“As the battery price continues to drop, the prices on the cars will also drop,” said Wilcox. “Plus, depending on the car, there are tax credit rebates of $2,500 to $7,500. Also, we are starting to see used ones come on the market, for about $17,000. The Drive Change, Drive Electric Initiative now involves 16 automakers in seven New England states.”
One ride in an electric car could sell a person on the idea of owning one.
“They are quiet,” said Ron Currier, owner of Hilltop Chevrolet in Somersworth. “They accelerate form 0 to 60 in no time and are like driving a sports car. They are fun to drive.”
Currier was at the event Sunday with an Chevy Bolt.
“I think electric cars are the best kept secret in the automotive world,” said Currier. “They are safer than most vehicles, and other than windshield wipers, an air filter and tires, they have almost no maintenance. And, you never need to stop at the gas station again.”
Portsmouth, Dover and Nashua are among NH municipalities that are part of Destination Electric, a movement to add charging stations to the cities’ downtown areas. The goal is to bring tourism into the city, made up of users of electric cars, who can plug in their vehicles while they shop or have dinner. The Hanover parking garage has two charging stations and the new Foundry garage, three. City Councilor Josh Denton said they hope add a powerful charging station to the Bridge Street lot or the Worth lot.
“The idea behind Destination Electric is that 80% of charging happens at the home, and we need to change that,” said James Penfold, CEO and co-founder of EV Launchpad, a Portsmouth company that provides charging equipment for electric vehicles. “If there are charging stations near restaurants and local businesses, people can plug in and explore the attractions that bring other visitors into the city. When they are ready to leave, the car is ready, too. The electric car owners will bring money into the cities because they are spending more time here. So, municipalities get a return on their investment.”
There are three levels of charging stations,” said Denton. “Level one is primarily residential and takes about 22 hours to charge. Level two is like ones we already have in the city and take 8-10 hours to charge. The one we are looking at, level three will charge a car in 30 minutes.”
There are already charging station in the city, at level 2. Denton said there is one at city hall, some at the Chinburg property at the Frank Jones buildings and Cisco Brewery has a charging station.
Denton said the city hopes to fund the new level three charging station using money New Hampshire will receive from the Volkswagen settlement.
“Volkswagen lied on emission testing, and as part of the settlement each state will receive money,” said Denton. “Two years ago, we asked the governor to put some of that money toward charging stations. The money is expected to be released soon.”
Wilcox said the state will receive $31 million in the settlement and the governor and legislature has dedicated 15% of that, about $4.6 million to charging stations in the state.