By Leah Sander
WARSAW — Michiana Area Council of Governments Senior Environmental Planner Leah Thill says electric vehicles are part of the present.
“I say they’re clearly here and we just need to make sure that we plan practically for the infrastructure,” she said.
The Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce celebrated the installation of several electric vehicle charging stations in downtown Warsaw with a ribbon-cutting on Monday, Oct. 17.
The ribbon-cutting was held at the charging station in the area of 100 W. Main St., on the north side of the Kosciusko County Courthouse, where two parking spaces are reserved for electric vehicles. There’s another station in the city parking lot at Buffalo and Jefferson Streets, near Expressions.
Part of the funding for the stations, $18,000, came from the city applying for money from Volkswagen’s settlement related to its cheating on emissions tests. Zimmer Biomet also contributed $10,000 for the project, said Warsaw City Planner Justin Taylor.
“It’s all part of our sustainability initiative to help the community and kind of lead the way for environmental efforts,” said ZB Vice President of Operations Dustyn Arney.
People can utilize free charging through the devices for a time, said Taylor.
“For the first two years, it’ll be free for the first two hours,” he said, mentioning that came as part of the funding. “We like that it can attract people to our downtown. They can plug in for a couple hours and shop. If somebody chooses to stay plugged in longer than that, they’ll be alerted and then there will be a small fee for the hours after that.”
The parking spots next to the charging stations are clearly marked with a charging symbol and the letters “EV.”
“We would only want EV vehicles parked here,” said Taylor. “We kind of strategically picked these spots in our downtown so that they would be close to all the amenities in downtown, but we’re really sensitive to the not losing parking in downtown.”
“With the prevalence of electric vehicles picking up, it makes since to have some dedicated (spaces) also,” said Taylor. “It’s just a good practice for us to be up on current technology and offer that as an amenity to people.”
“It’s being used,” noted Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer. “Obviously people are buying electric cars and (the city had to do) very minimal infrastructure here thanks to the grant from the Volkswagen settlement and this is pretty much a no-brainer.”
“I think it’ll make it a little easier to stop into our community for someone that’s got an electric vehicle,” he added.
Several vehicles were charging at the station on the north side of the courthouse around the time of the ribbon-cutting. One of the people utilizing the station was Nathan Burton, who had his Tesla Model 3 plugged in.
“It’s super convenient because otherwise I would have to charge at home, which is really, really slow,” he said. “If I charge overnight at home, it probably gets you 60 miles of range for the whole night whereas this will do that in two hours, so it’s just a lot faster.”
He told media members that he doesn’t really have another spot locally other than his house to charge his car. He has used so-called super-chargers in Fort Wayne or South Bend, which charge his vehicle in 10 to 15 minutes.
Thill said MACOG, which helped Warsaw obtain the $18,000 from the Volkswagen settlement, has assisted other nearby communities with getting charging stations. Those include Culver and Plymouth in Marshall County and Goshen and Elkhart in Elkhart County.
“We have some federal funding that we will be awarding to Nappanee, which currently does not have any charging stations, as well as the city of Goshen to install a fast charging station, which will charge many times faster than the unit in Warsaw,” said Thill.
She mentioned that Warsaw’s charging stations had Level 2 chargers.
“I call them a destination charger because they’re intended to charge while you’re going to do other things like go to work, lunch, shop downtown,” she said. “You get about 25 miles per hour compared to a fast charger where you may get 200 miles per hour or more … Those are more designed for along highways, interstates, for long-distance travel where this is more for a destination like this where you’re going to be here for awhile.”
Thill said other area communities are welcome to communicate with MACOG about trying to obtain grants to put charging stations in.