Charging stations are scattered throughout the Triangle, allowing drivers of electric cars to plug in and power up. But Apex has the state’s first free fast-charging station on public property.
The town’s new Eaton DC Quick Charger can power the Tesla, the Nissan LEAF and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV to about 80 percent capacity in 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the battery size.
That’s much faster than the typical plug-in unit, which can take three to four hours.
Apex unveiled the units Friday in the public parking lot on Saunders Street, across from the police station and behind the Salem Street Promenade.
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Having the electric stations downtown could help spur economic development, officials said.
“We want people to say, ‘Now that I know this is here I’m going to go downtown to shop, eat and get a free charge at the same time,’ ” said Mayor Bill Sutton.
During Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, Sutton threw out a gas can in a symbolic move to show that the units can save in gasoline costs.
Harry Powell of Morrisville owns a LEAF and attended Friday’s ceremony. He vouched for the gas savings: He said he used to pay about $250 a month to put gas in his vehicle, and now he pays about $30 a month to recharge his electric car.
Powell’s car can hold a charge for up to 80 miles. That means driving long distances takes some pre-planning to make sure a station will be nearby. The new unit gives drivers more options, he said.
“A quick charge makes it so you can go further between towns,” Powell said.
The quick charger is one of three plug-in units in the parking lot. The stations were paid for through a grant from the N.C. State University Solar Center and Advanced Energy.
Through the grant, Apex also got a GE Level 2 Dual Pedestal Charger, which can service vehicles of all makes and models. The Level 2 charger gives cars about 40 miles of charge in three to four hours. It can serve up to two cars at the same time.
Depending on the car and driving conditions, the average electric car can drive about 70 to 100 miles on a full charge.
Advanced Energy is adding a total of five quick charge units in the Triangle, including one at Duke University in Durham and one in North Hills off of Six Forks Road in Raleigh. Both are expected to come on line later this month.
“We recognize that if someone wants to go out to eat, they’re not going to be able to wait around for four to six hours to wait for their car to charge up,” said Project Manager Tyler Bray with Advanced Energy.
Apex was awarded another $54,000 grant through Advanced Energy to buy four electric vehicles and install charging stations at Town Hall. These stations will be for town use only. Three vehicles will be used by utility meter readers and one will be a general use staff car as part of a demonstration project.
“It’s a statement that Apex is progressive and Apex is looking toward the future,” said Councilman Bill Jensen. “And the future is electric cars.”