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Finding electric car chargers in Boston just got easier

By Jonathan Satriale
On June 11, 2013


When the closest gas station to the TD Garden closed a few years ago, who knew it would undergo a metamorphosis and reemerge two-years later as the "fueling" station of the future? That should be good news to drivers looking for a filling station in downtown Boston, but it's probably not unless their car uses electricity and has a plug. 

The old Exxon Mobil station at the corner of Merrimac and Market Streets has been replaced by a parking lot featuring 12 electric charging stations. The 4,000 square foot Green Park and Charge lot currently houses the largest concentration of public electric charging stations in Boston.

"There's a certain poetic justice that we've converted this former gas station to an electric vehicle charging station," said Scott Oran managing director of Dinosaur Capital Partners, which owns the lot.

The charging stations offer "free" electricity to electric vehicle (EV) drivers who pay the traditional market-based parking fees. Oran said it's a public service and an amenity to the parking lot and adjacent coffee shop. He also said the city of Boston would only entertain his company's proposal for another parking lot in the neighborhood if it contained EV charging stations.

EV charging stations are popping up all around Boston at an accelerated pace. They can be found in the Boston Common garage, at area hotels, in front of City Hall, near Fenway Park and dozens of other locations around town- far exceeding traditional gas station locations (Charging Station Map). There are approximately 100 public stations in Boston and 250 in the greater metropolitan area, not including private and home-based charging stations, according to Scott Miller, vice president of marketing for ChargePoint, the largest network of independently owned charging stations in the world. There are 262 electric vehicles registered in Boston and 1465 in the state according to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

The roll out of EV charging stations is due in part to grants, incentives, and requirements provided by the federal Department of Energy, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the City of Boston respectively.

Dinosaur Capital Partners received a grant from the Department of Energy that covered the hardware costs, but not installation costs, of eight of their twelve charging stations worth approximately $40,000, Oran said. The Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs offers electric charging station grants to Massachusetts cities and towns through its Massachusetts Electric Vehicle Incentive Program (MassEVIP). Municipalities can receive between $5,000 and $7,500 towards the cost of a charging station if they buy a battery-electric or plug-in hybrid passenger vehicle. The City of Boston also ensures the deployment of charging stations by requiring new development projects to contain a certain ratio of charging stations to parking spots. A ratio as much as five percent has been required in some cases, said Rachel Szakmary a transportation planner for the City.

All of this is good news to EV owner Ian Bowles, former Secretary of Energy and Environment for Massachusetts, who said he commutes from Jamaica Plain to his downtown Boston office in a Chevy Volt. The Volt has an estimated range of 35 to 45 miles on battery alone and can go an additional 320 miles using gasoline, which helps alleviate any "range anxiety," Bowles said.

"I've probably been 9,000 miles and used about 28 gallons of gas.So very little, you know 300 plus miles per gallon," Bowles said.

Bowles said he knows of eight charging stations in Post Office Square near his office, but when he doesn't know the location of the nearest charging station, he uses one of a few mobile apps, typically ChargePoint's, to find a station. Many EV cars come with GPS systems that can locate charging stations and provide directions to them. These applications are essential for owners of battery-only cars. Bowles has the additional assurance of a 240 volt home charging station to ensure his car is ready for his commute. 

Home charging stations typically come in two types or levels and cost between $600 and $900 for the hardware without installation. There's the 120 volt level 1 charger that works with most home electrical systems or the 240 volt level 2 charger that usually requires the installation of a more powerful circuit by a certified electrician. The main difference is charging time. The level 2 charger, which Bowles owns, works approximately three to four times faster than the level 1 charger. Level 1 chargers can take between 12 to 18 hours to fully charge a battery while the level 2 charger can take between four to eight hours, depending on the vehicle.  Level 3 chargers are starting to roll out in public locations and claim a 15 to 30 minute charging time, but require an optional connector on the car.

Bowles, managing director at WindSail Capital Group, said it takes about four hours to fully charge his depleted Volt battery at a total cost of approximately $1.50. He says that $1.50 worth of electric charge can drive his car about 40 to 45 miles at about a third the cost of gasoline.

EV owners are often well aware of the difference in fuel prices, but raising awareness of charging stations is what helped put the Dinosaur Capital lot on the map.

"It's something of a billboard. The thought was, even though there are not that many electric vehicles yet, if you build it they will come," Oran said.

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