Charged up: UVA unveils C'ville's first electric station
A little over two years ago, UVA student Kyle Smalkowski founded the student organization START, Sustainable Transportation Advancement and Research Team, with hopes that the group would help fulfill a goal of his—to bring a publicly accessible electric vehicle charging station to Charlottesville.
On Friday, April 26, that goal got charged to life with the opening of a 240-volt charging station next to the elevators on the second level of UVA Central Grounds Parking Garage at 400 Emmet Street.
The station can only charge one electric car at a time for a $2 maintenance fee and receives its electricity from the grid of the garage, which gets some of its electricity from the 500-watt solar panel system on the roof. The station will draw about 7.2 kilowatts of electricity from the garage grid.
About six months before last week's unveiling, Smalkowski pitched his idea to Michael Phillips, project manager at Virginia Clean Cities, a nonprofit organization that promotes alternative fuels and vehicles, and Phillips jumped on board. Christian Speck, a fourth-year electrical engineering major, and Olivia Jeffers, a fourth-year civil engineering major, also helped out with the project, which received an $8,700 grant from the Green Initiatives Funding Tomorrow fund.
Phillips and Smalkowski’s passion for this initiative stems from their recognition of the benefits of electric vehicles.
“Electric vehicles give zero tailpipe emissions, you have the opportunity to use domestic fuel, you have the opportunity to use very clean renewable energies and reduce dependence on foreign oil," says Phllips. "There’s also a ton of implications for global warming.”
The first one to charge his car at the station, appropriately enough, was Jeffrey Sitler, the director of the Environmental Compliance Program in UVA's Environmental Health and Safety Department. Sitler brought in his Chevy Volt, which he has been driving for a year now on one gas fill-up.
Clearly, with only one charging station in town equipped to charge only one car at a time, Charlottesville won't be an electric car town any time soon. Indeed, cars pulling up to the Central Grounds Parking Garage station will also likely have to sit there for hours, as officials says it takes eight hours to charge a depleted battery.
However, Smalkowski and Phillips have high hopes, and they predict that we will be seeing an increase in the amount of electric vehicles around Charlottesville. Currently, according to Phillips, there are only 2,006 registered electric vehicles in Virginia, but that's a 700 percent jump from last year.
"This car charging station is just the beginning of what the future will continue to bring for clean energy in Charlottesville," says Smalkowski.