County unveils first electric vehicle and charging station

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman pulled up to the Thomas Dorsey Building in Columbia Monday, Nov. 7, in the county's first electric vehicle — a sleek, white 2012 Chevrolet Volt.

"It was incredibly smooth, almost intimidatingly smooth because you don't hear it," Ulman said.

His comments came during a news conference to unveil the car and the county's first electric vehicle charging station. The station, located at the government complex on Bendix Road, has five, 204V charge outlets and is available to the public free of charge 24 hours a day.

"These are the first public charging stations in the county," Ulman said, noting he and his staff are brainstorming locations for future charging stations.

For the country to reduce its dependence on foreign oil, government must partner with the communities, Ulman said.

"This only really works with a network of charging stations," he said.

A full charge, which takes about four hours of being plugged into a charge outlet, will enable an electric vehicle to travel roughly 40 miles, Ulman said. For people who travel farther than 40 miles each day, having charging stations near their destinations is key, he said.

"The more options there are, the easier it becomes," Ulman said.

The county's new Volt has a back-up gas tank, but after traveling 775 miles, the car has only used 5.5 gallons of gas, Ulman said.

Half of the county's carbon footprint comes from mobile fuels, said Josh Feldmark, director of the county's Office of Environmental Sustainability. Electric vehicles, he said, will help reduce that.

Though many people don't own electric vehicles, Feldmark said the county is "creating that infrastructure so when people get electric vehicles, the infrastructure is already there." Having charging stations in place, he said, is likely to encourage more people to opt for electric vehicles.

Funding for the charge outlets came from a federal grant coordinated by the Baltimore Electric Vehicle Initiative.

Jill Sorensen, BEVI's executive director, lauded the county for readily embracing the electric vehicle movement.

"The leadership for sustainability, clean energy … has been here for a long time," she said.

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