Driving an electric car in Baltimore is about to become a little less anxiety-producing, as the city moves to double the number of spaces in municipal parking garages where battery-powered vehicles can be recharged.
The Board of Estimates agreed Wednesday to let a Baltimore-based company install about 20 new charging outlets in up to six city-owned garages. The agreement calls for Electric Vehicle Institute Inc. to install and maintain the plug-in stations at its own cost for up to three years.
Company officials said they are committing an undisclosed amount of their own funds to the installation to promote electric-vehicle use, though they expect tax breaks to partially offset the costs.
"There are all sorts of challenges to EV adoption," said Matthew Wade, president and CEO of EVI. "The one thing we can do to help is provide this charging infrastructure."
Wade's firm, started in 2010, markets both stationary and portable electric-vehicle chargers, cords that drivers can use to plug in to standard electrical outlets. It has stations now at the Maryland Institute College of Art and at the University of Baltimore.
The city currently has 20 charging stations in 10 municipal garages, according to Chance Dunbar, off-street parking manager for the Parking Authority of Baltimore. There also are two curbside chargers near City Hall on the south side of Fayette Street west of Gay Street.
Installed three years ago with state funds, the electricity is free at all those chargers, though motorists still must pay to park.
Demand for charging stations in the metro area appears to be growing. Use of at least some of the city garage chargers has more than doubled in the past two years, said Jason Mathias, an energy analyst in the city's Department of Public Works.
Electric-vehicle enthusiasts welcomed the expansion, saying that wider adoption of plug-in transportation technology is still hampered by a lack of places to recharge.
There are a total of 606 public charging stations in 257 locations around Maryland, according to data maintained by the U.S. Department of Energy. Most of those are in the Baltimore and Washington areas, and require vehicles to be plugged in for several hours to fully recharge.
"Our infrastructure is OK, [but] we definitely need more," said Jill Sorensen, executive director of the Baltimore-Washington Electric Vehicle Initiative, which has helped install chargers.
There are 2,614 electric vehicles registered in the state, according to Buel Young, spokesman for the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. But he noted that some hybrid vehicles and others that run on gasoline, such as the Chevrolet Volt, also run on batteries.
In all, Sorensen said, there are more than 5,000 vehicles in the state that run at least partially on rechargeable battery power. She said there would be more if there were more places to plug in, particularly at higher-voltage "fast chargers," which can fully recharge a battery in 30 minutes. The Maryland Energy Administration recently awarded $1 million to place fast chargers at 21 locations around the state.
Herself the owner of a Nissan Leaf, with an 84-mile range between charges, Sorensen said, "I have made a couple trips to Annapolis, where the charging stations we were involved in installing were all taken."