Town may ‘charge’ cars
By Ben Graham, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
March 21, 2013
Drivers of hybrids and electric cars may soon be able to recharge their vehicles for free in Jackson.
The Jackson Hole Energy Sustainability Project unanimously voted at a meeting Tuesday to recommend that the Town Council set up charging stations at the Home Ranch Welcome Center, the Deloney Avenue restroom, Town Square and the public parking garage on South Millward Street.
The stations would take up single parking spaces that would be reserved for electric cars.
Only three fully electric cars are registered in Teton County.
But the hope is that the stations will encourage commuters and Jackson Hole’s 4 million annual visitors to consider using more electric transportation, said Shelley Simonton, executive director of the energy sustainability project.
“If you have an electric vehicle, you can park there and plug in and charge while you go shopping, to a meeting downtown, whatever,” Simonton said.
An electric car typically takes six to eight hours to charge, she said. But any existing time limits on the parking spots would remain.
The town would pay about 5.8 cents per kilowatt hour for the electricity used at the stations. A three-hour charge would cost the town about 40 cents.
Simonton anticipates little use at first. If electric vehicles start to catch on in Jackson Hole, the town could charge for the electricity.
Drivers of regular cars would have to pay to park in the spaces, but a fee has not been set yet.
“We’re not looking to make this a painful experience,” Simonton said. “It’s more education and outreach.”
The four stations would cost a combined $23,000 to install. Additional funding would be needed to attach credit card reading machines for non-electrical vehicles.
While the technology is often touted because it reduces emissions, the electricity used for most of the cars comes from coal, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
“There’s a lot of negativity about the carbon footprint of electric vehicles,” Mayor Mark Barron, who also is on the sustainability project’s board, said at the meeting Tuesday.
But the town gets most of its electricity from hydro sources, he said, increasing the benefit of electric vehicles in Jackson Hole.
The town’s electricity is generated from hydropower at Strawberry Creek in Etna, a plant run by Lower Valley Energy.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s alternative fuels data center estimates electric cars in Jackson produce about half the national average of emissions for such vehicles.
Plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles have reduced tailpipe emissions, while fully electric cars produce none. Emissions come only from electricity-generating plants.
Funds for the project would come from specific purpose excise tax money voters approved in 2010, which is supposed to go to energy-efficient measures in government facilities.
The Town Council must approve use of the funds. Elected officials also would need to decide on the parking adjustments.
The Town Council decided last month to use $145,000 from the same pot of money to add solar panels to Town Hall, the Home Ranch Welcome Center, the Deloney Avenue restroom and the public works building.
The panels at Home Ranch and the Deloney restroom will be hooked up to the charging stations. They will contribute enough electricity to the stations to charge about 15 cars per day.