Electric Vehicle Chargers at a Crossroads

BLYTHEWOOD (Jan. 5, 2017) – The Electric Vehicle Revolution in Blythewood has hit something of a snag, leaving Town Council with a few options to ponder.

Michael Criss, the Town’s Consultant, told Council during their Dec. 19 meeting that the large, direct-current quick-charger located at the Exxon station on Blythewood Road is no longer charging. The device began having communication troubles with vehicles late last year and it has since been taken off-line completely. That leaves the town with only its four slower, Level 2 chargers – two each at the Comfort Inn and the Holiday Inn.

All five chargers have been available at no cost to electric vehicle drivers.

Criss said the first option is to simply repair the large quick-charger, if it is affordable to do so.

“We won’t know that until we get a diagnosis on the quick-charger; that’s the big one, the most expensive one,” Criss said. “We got it for $25,000, and that was half price. That and the four Level 2 chargers have useful life, but only if repairs are affordable.”

The rub, however, is that Eaton, the manufacturer of the chargers, has discontinued their line of electric vehicle juicers and will no longer be servicing or repairing the devices.

“Another alternative is turn over all sites to a third party like EVgo and let them replace our equipment with their equipment,” Criss said. “They’ll charge for use. It’s a for-profit charging system.”

EVgo, out of Houston, Texas, has recently made inroads into the East, Criss said, installing chargers at Spinx gas station chains in Spartanburg. They have expressed interest, Criss said, in taking over the Blythewood sites.

Volkswagen’s scandal last year, in which the car company installed software on some of its diesel vehicles that allowed them to circumvent the Clean Air Act, may present a third option, Criss said.

Volkswagen’s settlement of an ensuing lawsuit by the Environmental Protection Agency put South Carolina in line for $20 million over the next 10 years, Criss said.

“Some of that money may be used for electric vehicle charging stations,” Criss said. “I’ve already talked to the Bureau of Air Quality to get us in line for any potential grants that we might be able to use to replace our aging equipment.”

Criss said finding anyone qualified to work on devices like the large quick-charger was difficult; however, he added, Mike Switzer, Director of the Blythewood Chamber of Commerce and an electric vehicle owner himself, has given Criss a few leads.

“I suggest we do what we can to keep our four slow chargers working at the hotels, leaving our big charger off line and hope for a diagnostician to see if it’s worth repairing,” Criss concluded. “If it’s just a plug and cable, you’re probably looking at $1,500 for a $25,000 unit. It still boots up, it powers up, it tries to talk to cars when you plug it in, and then – ‘communication error.’ My guess is we have worn out the plug. But I don’t know that. Until we do, it’s hard to predict the best course of action.”