UNC to add electric vehicle parking spaces

May. 22, 2013 @ 06:29 PM

The UNC campus is going greener this fall with the addition of three charging stations to power electric vehicles.

But the charge isn’t likely to be free for those wanting to power up their environmentally friendly vehicles while attending a class, working or visiting the campus.

The UNC Board of Trustee’s Budget and Finance Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a proposal to charge owners of electric cars $250 a year for a decal that would allow them to use the charging stations.

The $250 fee for the decal would be in addition to the base parking permit motorists buy to park on campus.

The full board will consider the proposal Thursday when it meets at 8 a.m.   

Some universities and municipalities – Durham and Chapel Hill, for example -- provide electric charging stations at no cost to motorists as a way to encourage the use of electric vehicles to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

But a UNC official said Wednesday that the fee for the use of charging stations boils down to the university treating all employees fairly.

“The electricity is essentially their fuel,” said Carolyn Elfland, associate vice chancellor of campus services, referring to the owners of electric vehicles. “The state is not going to subsidize individual parties fueling their vehicles.”

Elfland added that there are costs associated with operating and maintaining charging stations and that the fee helps deter drivers of non-electric vehicles from using the spaces.

She said it is also hoped that the addition of the charging stations will help to stop unsafe practices.

“What we have had before now is kind of unsafe situations where people – some folks live beyond the reach of their charge, so they can come here but can’t get back home – so we’ve had things like extension cords plugged in buildings on the inside and run out the door,” Elfland said. “We’ve also had people finding a plug in a parking deck and just sticking it and it’s really not safe.”

Elfland said a university committee that included owners of electric vehicles came up with the fee proposal.

 “The committee did not ask that it be free,” Elfland said. “We followed pretty much the committee’s recommendation, and I think the electric vehicle users think it’s fair.”

She said a recent survey found about three dozen people on campus use electric vehicles.

The university will eventually add three more stations to bring the total to six.

Visitors to the campus on nights and weekends may use the stations, for which they will be charged 75 cents an hour.

While the university has an electric charging station for its own electric vehicles, the ones it plans to install before the fall semester will be the first for public use.

One charging station is already operational at the university’s facilities service building and two more are planned for the Cobb parking deck and the deck at the Kenan-Flagler Business School.