Independence, Missouri, is the kind of place where when someone buys an electric car it’s unusual enough that the local newspaper writes a story about it.
Stan Adkins of Cable-Dahmer Chevrolet sold a second Chevy Volt last month.
Adkins is a big believer in the car, but he doesn’t expect many sales in this Kansas City suburb until residents are more confident they’ll be able to plug them in when and where they need a charge.
“If you see public charging stations beginning to appear, it’s going to minimize some fear or reluctance that people might have in considering electric vehicles,” Adkins said.
Over the winter, Adkins helped start Electrify Independence, a civic committee focused on bringing the first public charging station to Independence by the end of the year.
Independence is among several cities and counties in the Midwest that are starting to plan new policies and infrastructure to support the growth of electric vehicles.
The U.S. Department of Energy awarded electric vehicle “community readiness” grants last fall to projects in Ohio, Michigan and the Kansas City area.
Other metros, including the Twin Cities, are moving ahead without federal funding.
What they have in common is questions about where to put charging stations, how to handle zoning and permits, and how to create a consistent experience for users.
Where to put charging stations?
A conversation is underway in Independence and elsewhere about the best places to put electric vehicle charging stations.
Adkins’ short list includes places like the local hospital, hockey arena, shopping mall and genealogy center.
“Those are high-profile places that are high traffic, destination locations,” Adkins said. “People drive there from far away.”
Electrify Independence has support from the city’s municipal utility. Ideally, the first charging station will be installed where there is another partner to help pay for it.
It’s also important that the city’s first public charging station be in a place where it gets used, said Tom Lesnak, president of the Independence Economic Development Council.
“The last thing you want is a charging station in front of city hall and it takes up a prime parking spot and it isn’t getting used by someone with an electric vehicle,” Lesnak said.
The work happening in Independence is being supported by a broader, regional program called Electrify Heartland, which received a $441,178 DOE grant in September.
Grant manager Ruth Redenbaugh said various committees are working on government, infrastructure, utility grid, and public education issues.