Lebanon, Hanover look to boost EV charging infrastructure
As more electric vehicles hit roads throughout the Upper Valley, municipalities are increasingly seeing that a lack of accessible charging infrastructure could pump the brakes on EV adoption in the region.
To build more than 90 public charging stations, the city of Lebanon has applied for $5.2 million in federal funding fueled by the Inflation Reduction Act. If awarded money from the Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Grant Program, the city would be positioned to increase its EV charging capacity significantly.
Currently, there are around 25 public charging stations in Lebanon, according to website and app PlugShare.
Just 200 public charging stations are available across New Hampshire, which is equivalent to half of the public charging capacity in Vermont.
Lebanon expects to hear about the fate of its grant application within the next month, said Tad Montgomery, Lebanon’s energy and facilities manager.
Divided into three tiers based on the amount of electricity they provide, EV chargers work at different speeds. A thoughtfully planned network of chargers runs the gamut, Montgomery said.
Level one chargers can work through a commonplace 120-volt AC plug. While requiring no additional installation, they’re also the slowest, and can take up to two days to fully charge an electric car.
Level two chargers can juice up a battery overnight, but also require the installation of a 200-volt plug similar to those used to power clothes dryers. The New Hampshire Electric Co-op offers its residential utility customers rebates of up to $300 to install a level two charging station.
For drivers on long-range road trips, DC Fast Chargers, which can recharge a car to nearly full power in as little as 15 minutes, are the most sensible option. But they’re also the most expensive to operate. (Plug-in hybrid EVs can’t use DC Fast Charging).
On top of the federal funding, Lebanon is hoping for some money from the state.
New Hampshire is dolling out $10 million through the Granite State Clean Fleets program to replace municipally-owned diesel vehicles with electric or hybrid cars and trucks. The funding comes from the “diesel-gate” scandal, Montgomery said.
In 2017, the Department of Justice and Volkswagen signed a multi-billion dollar settlement when it was found that the car manufacturer had violated the Clean Air Act by rigging emissions tests in its vehicles.
Now, New Hampshire holds over $30 million in trust to bankroll emissions mitigation projects in vehicles.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, EVs reduce emissions by two-thirds compared with vehicles that run on gasoline. This is even after accounting for emissions created by electricity production.
In January, Lebanon became the first municipality in New Hampshire to adopt zoning regulations requiring EV charging at new multi-unit housing.
Ben Steele, a member of Sustainable Hanover, keeps tabs on the town’s EV infrastructure. In line with national trends, the number of EVs registered to Hanover owners has almost doubled in two years, from 120 in 2020 to 232 in 2022, Steele said.
But along with a couple of standalone chargers, there are a cluster of chargers in two parking garages in town. Compared to the growling demand, “that’s not a whole lot of charging,” he said.
Steele said the infrastructure that Hanover hopes to build out will be aimed at making charging available to people in multi-unit and rental housing. Sustainable Hanover also wants to encourage employers to make charging available, which could in turn encourage their employees to purchase EVs.
Hanover is planning to apply for grant funding to expand its EV charging this year from the same sources Lebanon did, Steele said.
“It’s sort of a chicken and egg problem: People are hesitant to get one because there aren’t enough chargers around, and people aren’t installing chargers because there aren’t enough EVs yet,” he said. “So I think the way is to build chargers.”
On Saturday, the Lebanon Energy Advisory Committee and Sustainable Hanover are scheduled to co-host the Upper Valley Electric Vehicle Exposition from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Frances Mize is a Report for America corps member. She can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3242.