Growth in the electric car market has long been predicated on a chicken-or-egg problem: Will sales of electric vehicles spur the emergence of charging stations, or are the existence of charging stations necessary to drive sales?
It also reads as a catch-22: Sales will likely lag without enough charging stations, and charging stations will likely lag without enough sales.
Just about 2 percent of cars on the road today are all-electric or hybrids.
Gainesville is poised to tackle both problems.
City officials are considering installing a charging station in the Main Street parking lot that fronts Jesse Jewell Parkway near the downtown square to both serve electric vehicle drivers and incentivize shoppers in the city’s core.
The station would serve two cars at a time.
“It’s just another example of being progressive,” said Councilman Sam Couvillon.
Georgia is one of the fastest growing states for sales of electric cars, and metro Atlanta is one of the dominant markets outside of California.
But whereas the state government once helped drivers purchase electric vehicles, it is now taxing electric vehicle owners as part of a nearly $1 billion spending package for road and bridge improvements.
With tax subsidies eliminated, private industry and local governments are looking at ways to serve the electric vehicle market.
Recently, electric charging stations have popped up in the Gainesville area at the University of North Georgia, Carriage Nissan and the Kroger at New Holland Market.
City officials had first considered placing a charging station in the downtown parking deck, but it lacked adequate power sources.
The parking lot, meanwhile, has a utility box and access points for sufficient power, officials said.
The parking lot is prized land for future development, however, which could include mixed-use constructions, and the parking deck could one day be a more suitable location for the charging station.
The equipment can easily be moved, according to officials.
The city has consulted with EnviroSpark Energy Solutions about the costs of installing a charging station, which would likely run a little more than $2,000 once a Georgia Power rebate is applied.
Details about the charging station’s operation, such as whether to apply a use fee, still need to be worked out.
It is possible that the charging station would be free for the first two hours, for example, before a fee kicks in as a way to move users along and make way for others.
“I’d like to see what it costs to set up for pay,” said Mayor Danny Dunagan.
Officials with EnviroSpark said a commonly used mobile phone application called PlugShare, which maps the locations of charging stations and alerts drivers to whether they are currently in use, will act as a natural advertiser for the city-owned station.
Officials estimate that the charging station will have a negligible impact on the city’s power bill, perhaps somewhere between $30 and $50 per month.
“This sounds like a real win-win,” said Councilman George Wangemann.