LONGMEADOW — Town-owned electric vehicle chargers have been available to the public in Longmeadow for about a month. While Town Manager Lyn Simmons said the chargers were “seeing some good use,” those users have found the cost to be too high.

The cost of the level 2 chargers at the DPW, Longmeadow Adult Community Center, Longmeadow High School and Wolf Swamp Athletic Fields is $8 per hour or $.13 per minute. After much discussion by the Select Board, the rate was set based on the estimated electricity cost from Eversource. Simmons said there was no revenue going to the town in connection with the chargers.

According to chargehub.com, a website that tracks the location and cost of electric vehicle chargers, chargers in the Greater Springfield area either offer free charging or the rate is based on kilowatt-hours.

One other location — AAA Pioneer Valley in West Springfield — was found to charge by the hour and the cost was $3.60 per hour. Rates in the area vary. Baystate Medical Center and Springfield Technical Community College charge 25 cents per KwH but rates generally range from 35 cents per KwH in East Longmeadow and West Springfield to 90 cents per KwH in many parts of Springfield.

Letters sent to the Select Board reflect users’ concerns over the price to charge their vehicles. Resident Eric Howard called the rate “absurdly high,” and said the cost worked out to about $1 per mile with his vehicle. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average combustion engine car gets 24.2 miles per gallon of gasoline. With Longmeadow gas prices hovering around $3 gallon, the price per mile is about 12 cents.

“Are you attempting to discourage people from driving electric cars?” Howard asked in the letter.
“These prices are not even close to being competitive,” said Robert Goldberg in a letter to the board. He added, “The town of Longmeadow has an interest in promoting the use of cleaner energy for the betterment of its citizens and the planet.”

Similarly, John Weaver wrote to say the cost to charge was too high. He also questioned why there was “idle fee” for remaining at a charger after the battery is full. Without a disincentive to move the vehicle, he said people will likely block charging ports from other users. He suggested implementing an idle feel and switching to a per kilowatt charging structure, since vehicles charge at different speeds.

Simmons acknowledged residents’ concerns about the rate. She said the town has been monitoring the feedback on the electric vehicle chargers, “both positive and negative,” and is working with the DPW to compare fees collected with the cost of electricity from Eversource. She said that after one full monthly billing cycle, she will make recommendations on necessary changes to the Select Board.

Select Board member Vineeth Hemavathi said the town has not been given a definitive rate for electricity by Eversource. Data from the cost to run the chargers is needed for the board to set an appropriate rate for the vehicle chargers. “This is just the very beginning and it’s a process,” he assured residents.

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