SEAFORD — The city is gearing up to enter the electric vehicle-charging world, with hope that its service will draw business to the downtown district.
On Tuesday, City Council unanimously approved revisions to fee and rate schedules for the city’s first charging station, expected to be operational soon in the city-owned parking lot at High and Spring streets.
“Because this is a transient location, council’s goal was to place this in the downtown,” said City Manager Charles Anderson. “Stations are registered with their vehicles. Should they need a charge, they would come off-highway into our downtown, … visit restaurants, do some tourism, while their car is charging.”
Councilman James King said he is pleased with the location.
“I think it is an exciting thing,” he said. “It is just another tool to get people downtown.”
With calculations based on the city’s average residential rate of 14.7 cents per kilowatt hour, the recommendation approved by council was $1 per hour.
“We back-calculated what the residential rate is. It is equivalent basically to that,” said Mr. Anderson. “This is on par with what our residents would pay.”
The fee is based on an hourly rate, not electricity consumed during the charging process. Though there was discussion about implementing a higher price, possibly $1.50 per hour, to deter extended or overnight charging, council members agreed on the $1 hourly rate, which can be adjusted later, Mr. Anderson said.
“This being our first electric vehicle charger, we will watch this and see how much penetration it gets, how much usage it gets,” he said. “Then, we’ll do some analysis on it in the months and years going forward about should we increase this charge?”
Councilman King agreed.
“To me, I agree with the entry level, just to kind of monitor to see where it is at, encourage people to come off the highway, and hopefully, this will be a tool that will drive more business, potential customers to our downtown district,” he said.
Seaford’s charging station includes two bays, meaning two vehicles can charge simultaneously. The spaces for electric vehicles are designated with signage.
Payment for the charging is noncash but allows credit cards, mobile apps or a monthly subscription service.
Final steps need to be taken before the station is fully functional. Mr. Anderson said the city is hopeful it will be operational later in January.
Vice Mayor Dan Henderson said he doubts the service will require enforcement efforts.
“I don’t see it as an enforcement issue. I don’t think you are going to have to have a meter maid or somebody walking around,” he said. “EV owners are very territorial about their spots, and if they see somebody that is not plugged in, … they’ll make somebody aware of it.”
The charging station, manufactured by SemaConnect, an EV infrastructure company based in Bowie, Maryland, is in the city parking lot — property that, for many years, was home to Burton Brothers Hardware, which was heavily damaged by fire in 2012.
As part of the Delaware Municipal Electric Corp., the city learned of grants through the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control that would cover 90% of a qualified charging station. “So (this equipment) wound up costing us about $800,” said Mr. Anderson.
The paving of the city lot was supported by Sen. Bryant Richardson, R-Seaford, and Rep. Danny Short, R-Seaford, through the Community Transportation Fund.
With growing interest in electric vehicles and vehicle manufacturers mapping out increased production of them, the city may expand its charging facilities, Mr. Anderson said.
“You’ve heard Ford and GM going to shift to all electric vehicles,” he said. “These need to be ubiquitous. At some point, there is going to have to be a ton of these around.”