University helps drivers go green by installing electric car chargers in Arlington building
Virginia Tech has installed two Level 2 charging stations -- capable of charging electric vehicles at both 120V and 240V -- on the P2 level of the public garage at the Virginia Tech Research Center — Arlington, 900 North Glebe Road. Depending on the model of the car, it takes three hours or less (at the higher voltage) to charge a half-depleted battery. Credit card payment is required of drivers using the charging stations.
Virginia Tech was awarded the two charging stations under a grant provided by the ChargePoint America program, sponsored by Coulomb Technologies and the Department of Energy as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Virginia Tech’s proposal was submitted by the university’s Advanced Research Institute, located in the Arlington research center. The wall-mounted charging stations were provided free of charge. However, the Virginia Tech Foundation, which owns the building in Ballston, paid installation costs and is responsible for maintaining the equipment.
The ChargePoint America program is creating an open network that makes is easy for drivers to locate charging stations along their commute and track their vehicle’s charging status. All participants in the program must agree to anonymous data collection. As the charging stations are all networked, this data collection is primarily automated.
Ultimately, the program will provide about 5,000 fully-networked Level 2 charging stations in participating regions. Arlington is among the locations in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area.
Arlington County is a recognized leader in creative environmental and sustainability initiatives. In 2008, the county introduced rolling concierges on Segways and a touch-screen visitor information kiosk near a major public transit hub. Fall 2010 brought the launch of a custom-designed electric vehicle -- the Mobile Visitors Center -- serving travelers at five Arlington Metro stations and at major tourism events. The environmentally friendly Mobile Visitors Center is a more convenient and cost-effective replacement for the county’s previous storefront Arlington Visitors Center.
According to Terry Holzheimer, director of Arlington Economic Development, the one-time investment in a vehicle that will reach visitors in the neighborhoods where they're staying is less than the annual cost of a storefront location that required the majority of guests to travel to it. In fact, the Mobile Visitors Center now reaches 40 percent more Arlington visitors-per-staff-hour than the previous retail location. County officials say the vehicle, recognized as 2011 "Visitors Center of the Year" by the Virginia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus, is one of several factors contributing to a 7.6 percent increase in Arlington visitor expenditures from 2010 to 1011.
To get a better understanding of how electric vehicles may impact the electricity grid, Dominion Virginia Power has purchased three Chevy Volts, a Nissan Leaf, three Toyota Prius hybrids, and two hybrid bucket trucks. Deborah Tompkins Johnson, manager, Regional State and Local Affairs, at Dominion Virginia Power, has been assigned one of the Volts. “Dominion is carefully monitoring the amount of electricity used by this, and all its electric vehicles, to help determine the infrastructure that may be needed as electric vehicles proliferate,” said Johnson, who services the Arlington area for Dominion and serves on the Arlington County Energy Planning Task Force with Saifur Rahman, director of Virginia Tech’s Advanced Research Institute.
“I have very much enjoyed driving this electric car, knowing that it is providing important information and contributing to a greener environment,” said Johnson.
Johnson and coworker Travis Cutler, external affairs representative, State and Local Government Affairs, Government Dominion Resources Inc., stopped by the Virginia Tech Research Center with the Volt recently to help inaugurate the newly installed chargers. Cutler is a Virginia Tech alumnus who earned a bachelor’s degree in resource management in 2007.
While Arlington County has no statistics on just how many electric cars there are in Arlington, the technology is gaining supporters nationwide, said Rahman. “We are pleased to support Arlington County, its businesses and residents as they explore sustainable resources through technology," he said.
“We hope that charging stations like the ones now available in the Virginia Tech building garage help encourage electric car ownership in Arlington, especially among those who want to embrace this new technology but live in apartment buildings and town houses that cannot accommodate an individual or public charging station,” Rahman said.
The charging stations are available for use during the parking garage’s hours of operation Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to midnight; Saturday, 10 a.m. to midnight; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.