Town opens conversation for electric car ride-sharing program

Pictured is one of four electric vehicle chargers behind Bunting Hall at Washington College. The Chestertown Mayor and Council is considering a proposal to bring an EV ride-sharing program and charging stations to the town.

CHESTERTOWN — Two electric ride-sharing cars could be coming to Chestertown.

The mayor and council agreed Monday, Dec. 3, to write a letter indicating support of bringing two electric cars, and electric car charging stations, to public property.

Lauren Frick, a Washington College junior and member of the entrepreneurship club Enactus, said the club would be working with Greenspot, a company that specializes in EV car-sharing programs.

If installed, Chestertown would be the pilot location in Maryland; Greenspot is looking to expand throughout the state, Frick said.

Frick said they intend to fund the project through the Maryland Volkswagen Mitigation Fund from the Maryland Department of Energy. Due to Volkswagen cheating on emissions tests, Maryland receives $75.7 million dollars in funding from the Volkswagen settlements.

“Maryland will fund 100 percent of the costs of electric vehicle infrastructure construction on public lands and will partially reimburse construction on private land,” Frick said.

At this stage of the project, Frick asked council members to sign a statement of support to include in their grant application, which must be submitted by March. The statement of support is not a formal commitment, Frick said.

Greenspot would pay for the infrastructure and maintenance of the vehicles and the chargers. Frick said they would also insure the vehicles. The vehicles could range from a Tesla, to a Chevy Volt to a Nissan Leaf.

Frick said that the model of the vehicle would determine the hourly rate, which would be paid by credit card through a smartphone app. Teslas would run about $20 an hour, where a Nissan Leaf would be about $10 an hour.

Chestertown is already home to a number of EV charging stations. During the summer, Washington College installed nine charging stations: five chargers for Tesla-branded electric vehicles, two donated by ClipperCreek and two donated from SemaConnect.

Frick said the goal would be to expand electric vehicle infrastructure to Chestertown. In partnership with Washington College Geographic Information Systems program, they would survey the town to determine where the rental cars might best service the community.

“Some of the ideas we’ve had for possible sites for charging stations might include the Fountain Park, if you want to have the vehicles as more like a tourist attraction, so you can say, ‘We have environmentally-friendly rental vehicles that tourists can have for the day,’” she said.

She said the other possibility would be to make a difference for those who don’t have access to their own car and might need to get somewhere.

“And the majority of people in Ward 3 do not drive a personal vehicle to work. So that kind of implies a lot of people don’t own personal vehicles,” she said. “And transportation is something very important for helping people find jobs and just general economic empowerment, making decisions about their own lives. And so we think that the electric vehicle rideshare system could benefit that community as well. But, of course, we are open to negotiation of where the town would be willing to give up the land for this parking spot.”

Mayor Chris Cerino said it might be beneficial to post something like this by the marina, so boaters could utilize the program to get around town. He also said individuals who don’t have access to personal vehicles may not have a smartphone to access the cars, or may not be able to pay the hourly fee.

Additionally, two SemaConnect charging stations were unveiled at East Coast Storage in September, which the business paid for themselves, Councilwoman Linda Kuiper said at Monday’s meeting.

“I support Enactus, you know, I do,” Kuiper said. “For the expense that this business has put out for those two chargers, I personally, and I don’t think they would, appreciate competition if this was 90 percent grant after they took the money out of their pocket.”

Frick said that a more detailed conversation between Greenspot, Enactus and the town would occur, should they get the grant funding, that would help address the concerns of council.

Ride-sharing programs, and those with Greenspot, are already established in other municipalities, such as New Jersey, New York, D.C. and Massachusetts.

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