The touchscreen in Michael Cermak’s Tesla displays map markers, pinpointing the stations where he can recharge the electric vehicle.
On one setting, the screen shows two Tesla Superchargers, near Hagerstown and Martinsburg, W.Va., and other types of chargers. Cermak carries adapters in the car’s trunk so he can take advantage of those options.
Running out of electricity “hasn’t been an issue at all for me,” said Cermak, who has put some 95,000 miles on his Model S in about four years.
Zooming out, the GPS map shows dots along interstates and many other major roads. Cermak, who can drive about 260 miles on a charge, said that view has come in handy when he’s taken longer trips, such as journeys to Colorado and Florida.
“It’ll tell you, ‘Stop for 20 minutes and charge,’” Cermak said.
The state of Maryland wants to add many markers to Cermak’s screen.
According to the Maryland Public Service Commission, the state has set a goal of having 300,000 zero-emission electric vehicles on Maryland roadways by 2025 and has targeted a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent of 2006 levels by 2030.
To ease motorists’ “range anxiety” about how far they can drive on a charge, and to help set a foundation for private companies to enter the market, the commission and four of the state’s largest electric utilities are launching a pilot program to install more than 5,000 fast-charging stations.
The commission stipulated that the public chargers be at property leased, owned or occupied by a unit of state, county or municipal government for public use.
In Western Maryland, Potomac Edison plans to install more than 50 public charging stations.
“This (program) gives us an opportunity to partner with state officials to really determine what the best locations will be,” said Aaron Ruegg, a spokesman for Potomac Edison.
Aside from specific locations, several other details still have to be worked out, Ruegg said.
For example, the decision requires utilities to establish a rate class to ensure that customers who use the public stations are covering part of the costs.
Public stations already are available at several places in the region. For example, units were recently installed near the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park in Hancock and on the Elizabeth Hager parking lot in downtown Hagerstown.
Apps and websites, such as www.plugshare.com, display maps showing public stations. The time to charge depends on the type of charger, Cermak said. Plugshare.com also lists charging costs, which vary.
For example, according to the website, public stations are available at the Walmart Supercenter off Sharpsburg Pike south of Hagerstown. The cost includes a $1 session fee, plus 30 cents per minute to charge. If a driver doesn’t move his car within 10 minutes of completing the charge, he can be assessed a 40-cent-per-minute “idle fee.”
The note for the stations at the Elizabeth Hager lot states, “Parking is $1/hour and charging (is) free for now. Charge stops after 1 hour but can restart on site.”
Cermak, who owns CermakTech of Waynesboro, Pa., used the downtown Hagerstown stations recently, letting the Tesla charge while he and some others dined at a nearby restaurant.
“I didn’t realize how many (charging stations) they had in there. It’s a nice setup,” he said.
Charging at home
Cermak said the car usually recharges in his garage while he sleeps. His home “charger” is a dedicated electric line, similar to what people use for electric clothes dryers or electric stoves.
“Every morning I start with a full tank,” he said.
He rarely drives more than 260 miles in a day, he said, so he rarely needs a public station.
Home stations are also a part of the commission’s ruling, calling for rebates for those who install them. The decision also calls on the utilities to develop rebate incentives to provide access to charging at apartments and condominiums. And the commission also wants the utilities to develop time-of-use rates that encourage people to charge their vehicles during off-peak hours, such as overnight, at a lower cost per unit of energy.
The cost to charge at home depends on several factors, from the vehicle’s battery capacity to the setup to the cost of electricity. Several online estimates for Teslas put the price at about $10 for a full charge, assuming electricity prices of 13 cents per kilowatt hour.
Overall, Jason M. Stanek, chairman of the public service commission, called the ruling “a significant step toward expanding electric vehicle adoption and reducing our harmful tailpipe emissions.”
Cermak, who has had solar panels installed at his home and business, said cleaner air is one of the main reasons he moved from gas-electric hybrids to the full electric vehicle.
“I’ve got three kids, and I’m just trying to leave things as good as I can for future generations,” he said.
In a separate but related move, the Maryland Department of the Environment last week announced a plan to investmore than $75 million dollars in settlement money from the Volkswagen “defeat devices” case to a variety of projects, including electric vehicle charging stations.
Jay Apperson, MDE spokesman, said the department’s announcement and the commission’s ruling “absolutely work hand-in-hand.”
The MDE effort “is focused more on the workplace” than consumer vehicles, Apperson said. Among other things, the plan would develop an electric school bus pilot program, working in concert with MDE’s idle-reduction program to reduce emissions around schools.
According to MDE, from 2009 through 2015, some diesel-powered Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche vehicles were equipped with illegal “defeat devices.” Those devices allowed vehicles to meet emissions standards in a laboratory or a test setting. But during normal operations those vehicles emitted nitrogen oxides at up to 40 times federal standards.
About 16,000 of those vehicles were sold in Maryland. In 2016, a federal court approved a settlement that requires Volkswagen to spend $2.7 billion on emission reduction programs in the United States. Under that settlement, Maryland was awarded $75.7 million.