Plain Township charges forward with new, free electric vehicle stations

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The new ChargePoint Level 2 stations at the Plain Township Board of Trustees office can charge up to four electric vehicles at once.
The new ChargePoint Level 2 stations at the Plain Township Board of Trustees office can charge up to four electric vehicles at once.

PLAIN TWP. – Plain Township is the latest Stark County local government to lean into the growing popularity of electric vehicles, with two new and free — for now — charging stations available at the Board of Trustees office.

"I'm excited about it because it is something that we are going to have to embrace in the future because there is going to be such a change with the climate, and with the prices of oil and the problems that we have getting all that situated," Trustee Brook Harless said.

The two ChargePoint Level 2 stations, which can charge up to four cars simultaneously, were funded in large part through an American Electric Power Ohio grant program that covers up to $10,000 per charging port for local governments.

More: Canton looks to future with electric vehicle charging stations

More: Stark Library gets electric-vehicle charging station

Eric Haines, a fire communications captain for Plain Township and the person leading the initiative, said the grant covered the entire $40,000 cost of installation, and the community spent a little more, around $6,000, to cover a five-year period of software upkeep and maintenance.

Otherwise, he said, the stations should not cost the township much at all.

"We have a very good rate in Stark County for power consumption, so it'll be the equivalent of running a couple of lights out there," Haines said.

A closeup look at Plain Township's new electric vehicle charging station.
A closeup look at Plain Township's new electric vehicle charging station.

Where are they located?

The stations are located in the parking lot of the Plain Township Board of Trustees office at 2600 Easton St. NE, backed up to the Oakwood Square plaza — which Haines said was an intentional placement.

"We wanted a place where, if you were going to be in from out of town or have just newly acquired an EV and didn't have the ability to charge at home or were just out at the Oakwood Plaza, that you would have a place to not only charge your vehicle but go out for dinner or a drink or [do] some shopping in this plaza over here," Haines said.

Oakwood Square has undergone a significant transformation in recent years as the township looks to make it the central hub of community life.

Related: John's Bar now open in Oakwood Square Plaza following move from Canton

Ultimately, most people with electric vehicles will charge their cars at their homes. But the trustees and Haines hope the presence of the stations may draw electric drivers who may be visiting the area to spend some time — and money — in the plaza's local businesses.

Currently, the charging stations are free to use, and Haines is hoping the board will consider making them free through at least the first quarter of 2022.

Trustees President John Sabo said the board isn't interested in turning the stations into a moneymaking operation by charging users at high rates, especially with the initial investment in the stations having come through grants.

"It just becomes a thing of why wouldn't we do it? It is the future," Sabo said. "We did secure the grant, which means that we didn't have taxpayers dollars tied up in the process. So for us, it's win win win."

Eric Haines, fire communications captain with the Plain Township Fire Department, talks about the township's new electric vehicle charging station.
Eric Haines, fire communications captain with the Plain Township Fire Department, talks about the township's new electric vehicle charging station.

A growing demand for greener options

Already, Haines and the trustees are considering where they may put another set of charging stations, provided more grant funding is made available.

Workers with Hilscher-Clarke Electric Company, including Jack Lewis, install Greenlots electric vehicle charging stations for the city of Canton in the parking lot of Stadium Park.
Workers with Hilscher-Clarke Electric Company, including Jack Lewis, install Greenlots electric vehicle charging stations for the city of Canton in the parking lot of Stadium Park.

They aren't alone in trying to prepare for an expected increase in electric vehicle usage — Canton installed multiple electric vehicle charging stations in January of this year, and others are available in Jackson Township and Massillon.

The investments in electric vehicle infrastructure come as the state and federal governments try to incentivize electric vehicle purchases. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is accepting applications for charging stations, and the Biden administration's Build Back Better plan contains plans for tax credit incentives for electric vehicle purchases.

The federal government is even looking to expand its own usage of electric vehicles, something Sabo said is a future consideration for Plain.

"We have fire vehicles, road vehicles, administrative vehicles that easily could move to that type of technology, and we just feel way more comfortable now that we understand the evolutionary process to it," Sabo said. "What's going to be interesting here is to see how many people ... are actually going to realize how convenient it is, and then come here."

Jessica Yoho at Kempthorn Volkswagen in Canton said she's seen interest in electric vehicles increase significantly in just the two years she's been working there.

"There's definitely a lot of buzz about electric vehicles," she said. "We get people probably every day that want to come in and check it out."

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 14,530 electric vehicles were registered in Ohio in 2020, which represents less than 1% of vehicle registrations in the state for the year.

Haines said he expects to see a lot more in coming years, and that Plain Township's investment is simply getting ready for an inevitable future. Because power was turned on to the charging stations on Dec. 2, he's already seen a vehicle — other than his own — using the station.

"Realistically speaking, you're only looking at 1 or 2% of the vehicles that you see out there are electric or hybrid electric. So we wouldn't expect to have a huge usage of the stations today," Haines said. "Give it another year or two, you'll start to see a more and more percentage increase of electric vehicles."

Reach out to Sam Zern at szern@cantonrep.com or 330-580-8322​. You can also find her on Twitter @sam_zern.

This article originally appeared on The Repository: Electric vehicle charging is now available in Plain Township

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