The days of the free ride at the town’s six electric vehicle (EV) charging stations may be coming to an end in the next few months. But the town’s commitment to being EV-friendly remains strong.
First installed in 2022 at minimal town expense thanks to grants from the state’s Electric Vehicle Incentive Program (MassEVIP), there are a total of six stations: two each at the Public Service Administration Building (PSAB) at 500 Dedham Ave, the Rosemary Recreation Complex and the parking lot at 0 Chestnut St. (behind CVS and Hearth and Farmhouse restaurants).
The town also has two charging stations at Sunita L. Williams Elementary School, installed with funding provided by the town for the construction of the school.
Town vehicles use the stations, but the grant required them to be accessible to the public for the first five years.
To date, the six stations have been free to the public, but the Select Board intends to consider the “charging for charging” option at its goals meeting in late summer, according to Chair Marianne Cooley. Whether to charge a fee and at what cost is under consideration.
As fleet manager for the Department of Public Works, John Regan relies on the stations, especially at the PSAB, to power the plug-in hybrids among the 250 vehicles under his management. These range from heavy equipment to pickup trucks to passenger cars, trailers and seasonal specialty equipment.
None is a full EV, but not because of any resistance from Regan. “I will always consider a better mousetrap,“ he said. “I am very pro EV.”
When Regan was hired in 2016, the town had recently installed just two charging stations, both located in the DPW lot abutting the DeFazio Park complex at 470 Dedham St. Use was limited to town vehicles.
“It took a long, long time to get those other chargers online,” he said, adding that public use of the stations has been on the rise.
“I think what spurred the interest was the incredible and vast increase in fuel prices for everybody,” said Regan.
He is more than amenable to electrifying the town fleet, but there are multiple obstacles. In fact, purchasing any sort of vehicle in bulk — EVs and those with internal combustion engines alike — has become a challenge.
“We can’t get vehicles,” Regan said simply. “We’re currently buying (Toyota) RAV4s that are plug-in hybrid.”
While there were EV options among comparable SUVs, Regan said the RAV4 hybrids were chosen “because of the (limited) availability of chargers at the time of the planning.” Current EV options for heavy equipment and many other segments of the DPW fleet are essentially non-existent.
“Snow removal is a big part of what we do,” said Regan. “Most of our fleet needs to be capable of serving that. And there isn’t anything (EV) from the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) yet that’s suitable.”
While additional charging stations are in the town’s plans, there is also the hope that charging the public and perhaps other policy changes will allow the town fleet to have greater access to the current charging stations.
“There are people who will abuse their access,” he explains. “They’ll come in at a certain hour and they will not remove their vehicle midday to allow access by others.
“Some will park all night or even multiple days and just use it as their parking spot. Nobody can access it. We’d need to initiate a fee or something to encourage them to move.”
Regan anticipates adding EVs to the town fleet when the macro environment allows. “The administrative vehicles — the ‘people movers’ so to speak — are what we’re targeting for high priority.”
He talked enthusiastically about “the wins from electric,” many related to low maintenance costs.
“The oil changes go down to almost nothing, even in a plug-in hybrid,” Regan said. “The brakes just don’t wear out with their regenerative braking — they slow down to recharge the battery instead of applying friction to slow down the vehicle.
“They just run and they’re reliable. You have to check on them every once in a while but they don’t require maintenance. So I’m all for it.”