AVALON — Tourists have come to the shore by train, stagecoach, schooner, steamboat and gas-powered cars. Now, Avalon is betting a charging station will bring tourists here in electric cars.
The borough on Friday opened the first municipal charging station for electric cars on the New Jersey shore. There wasn’t exactly a rush for service, but one car did come in right after the grand opening.
“He pulled up and said, ‘Can I plug in?’” borough spokesman Scott Wahl said.
By the end of the day, Wahl said, four or five cars had paid the $3.75 per hour for a typical two-hour charging. Business was probably pretty slow a century ago at the first gas station here, too, but the future has to start somewhere. Avalon is convinced the future will include plenty of electric cars.
“Electric cars are coming. We wanted to be ahead of the curve,” Wahl said.
General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Nissan and other companies are manufacturing them already. One study predicts electric and other alternative-fueled vehicles will account for one-third of the world’s fleet within a decade.
As a vacation destination, Avalon wants to be ready. Plug-in stations are still scarce, with most of them located on the West Coast, although U-Go Stations Inc., of Philadelphia, which installed the Avalon station, says it has stations throughout the country.
“Owners of electric vehicles who visit the shore do not necessarily have the ability to recharge their vehicles during their vacations. This public charging station will bring car owners to Avalon to not only recharge their vehicles but to also enjoy everything our community has to offer,” Mayor Marty Pagliughi said.
Unlike most gas stations, the charging station will be open 24 hours a day. For people visiting this resort for the day who have no accommodations for electric service, the station will give them juice to get back home. Charging a car can take several hours, but charging times are expected to shorten as the technology improves.
Drivers of electric cars can save dramatically on fuel costs. Many 2011 electric economy models get the equivalent of between 87 and 99 miles per gallon, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The U.S. agency’s website, reports the fuel costs for the driver of a 2011 electric car, economy version, are between $561 to $644 per year. Compare that with a 30-mpg car, which costs the driver an estimated $1,479, based on gasoline costing $3.52 per gallon.
The Avalon Green Team, a group of volunteers that promotes environmentally friendly projects, provided guidance for the project. The borough put the project out to bid and then put together a public-private partnership with the successful bidder, U-Go Station. Wahl said there is no cost to taxpayers and the borough gets a nominal fee for the energy sold.
The owner of the electric car pays using a credit card or station pass from U-Go. Wahl said the charging system is designed to get the job done quickly.
“When it’s charged, you get an email or a text message saying it’s ready. The customer pays for it just like a fill-up with gas,” Wahl said.
Pagliughi said public charging stations will only encourage consumers to explore green technology. He said Avalon is committed to environmental projects including solar power, geothermal energy, water conservation and others.
“This is a no risk, high reward initiative for Avalon,” Pagliughi said.
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