A local group hopes to bring to the Monadnock Region a charging station that would recharge electric vehicles much faster than anything in the area today.
Electric-vehicle owners often plug in their cars at home overnight, and Keene has a handful of so-called Level 2 stations that work faster than residential charging. But the area lacks a DC fast-charge station — a rapid recharger that can return a car to full charge, or close to it, in well under an hour.
“This is a fast-charging desert,” said John Kondos of Chesterfield, a board member of the nonprofit Monadnock Sustainability Network. Kondos said no fast-charging stations exist between Brattleboro and the Nashua area.
“We’re never gonna get any EVs if we don’t have a fast-charging network,” he said.
To that end, the Monadnock Energy Hub — a working group under the Monadnock Sustainability Network — wants to energize the region’s electric-vehicle infrastructure with a proposal for fast-charging equipment at the Monadnock Food Co-op in Keene.
The group has launched an online fundraising campaign that had raised more than $6,700 toward its $10,000 goal as of Monday, a little over halfway into the month-long effort.
Kondos said those funds would likely cover only a portion of the charging station’s cost, which could run anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars to more than $100,000.
The group hopes the balance will be funded from a pot of money awarded to the state as part of a multibillion-dollar settlement agreement between Volkswagen and the U.S. government, which the automaker entered into in 2016 to settle allegations it had sold vehicles designed to trick emissions tests.
Environmental-mitigation funds went to all 50 states, with New Hampshire receiving $30.9 million, according to the N.H. Office of Strategic Initiatives. The state plans to invest about $4.6 million of that in electric-vehicle charging infrastructure.
The state has been preparing to request proposals for fast-charging stations along key transportation routes. The Monadnock Energy Hub wants the Keene co-op, on Cypress Street, to be one of them.
“We don’t want the Monadnock Region to be left out of the state’s allocation,” Kondos said.
By building out the region’s charging infrastructure, Kondos said, the group hopes to encourage more people to buy electric vehicles and abandon traditional gas-powered cars that emit climate-warming carbon dioxide.
In 2018, the transportation sector was responsible for the largest share of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions, producing more carbon dioxide than the residential, commercial or industrial sector, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
“Climate change is an overwhelming, existential threat to humanity and countless species, so we’ve got to clean up transportation,” Kondos said.
Separately, the Keene City Council earlier this year adopted a resolution calling for fossil fuels to be phased out of local electricity use by 2030 and out of heating and transportation in the city by 2050.
Analysts predict a substantial increase in electric-vehicle sales in the coming decades, and charging infrastructure will have to keep pace.
That entails a mix of solutions, according to a 2018 report from the global consulting firm McKinsey & Company. For daily commutes, drivers can often get by with relatively low-wattage systems that charge for hours while their cars are parked at home or work.
But public charging stations are also important, as some drivers have longer commutes, need a top-off while running errands or lack access to residential charging because they live in a dense urban area with on-street parking, for instance.
And on longer-distance drives, like weekend getaways and work trips, electric vehicles may need to recharge along the way. That’s one reason to install fast-charging stations, which can bring a car back to or near a full charge in 20 to 45 minutes, said Brianna Brand, senior program director with Clean Energy NH, a nonprofit advocacy group.
“Definitely from a tourism perspective, it’s really important,” she said, adding that New Hampshire draws many travelers from surrounding states. “It’s important to have more of a faster charge, so they can keep going on their route, rather than have to stop for hours on end to charge.”
She said the state is making progress on electric-vehicle infrastructure, with more than 110 public charging stations around the state. But just a fraction are fast-charging systems — and many of those work only for Teslas.
“We do need to build out our DC fast-charging corridors,” Brand said, for example by making sure that “every 40 to 50 miles or so we have those available on big roadways like 89, 93, 95.”
Brattleboro has a cluster of charging stations, including a couple fast chargers. There are a handful of Level 2 charging locations in and around the Elm City, including downtown at the Commercial Street parking lot, at Antioch University New England and at several auto dealerships in Keene and Swanzey. But there’s virtually nowhere to recharge in the surrounding towns — the Hancock Inn is an exception — and the closest fast chargers to the east are in the Manchester-Nashua area.
Kondos — who drives a Chevy Bolt with a 250-mile range — said Level 2 chargers are useful, and the Monadnock Energy Hub wants to help build more of them as well. But he said a DC fast-charge station meets different needs, like when local drivers need a quick charge between back-to-back trips or a person comes from out of town.
“Let’s say you’re a businessman coming through Keene in an electric vehicle, or a family, doesn’t matter, and they’re coming through, and now they really need some serious charging,” he said.
Those travelers may not want to spend hours at a Level 2 charger, he noted. But with a fast charger, they could shop in the co-op or walk around downtown for 20 minutes before getting on their way.
“Keene’s not on their map,” he said. “This fast charger will put Keene on a lot of apps for EV charging.”