Louisville has dozens of free electric vehicle chargers. Thank this guy.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – When constructed a decade ago, the “Highland Green” building in the Cherokee Triangle had enough green features to earn “gold” certification from a national group that measures energy efficiency and sustainable development. pattern.

But there was still something missing from the building, which houses Highland Cleaners: an electric vehicle, or EV, charging station.

Michael Jones, owner of the cleaners and building, had tried to get hold of a charger, but was told they were out of stock.

It was then that Jones received an unsolicited call from someone who could help him. Stuart Ungar, a Louisville freelancer and electric vehicle enthusiast, was not an electrician, architect, or engineer. He was one of a small group of electric vehicle owners who wanted to see more public charging stations in Louisville, so they decided to install them.

“I said ‘Oh my god, if you could help me do that, that would be awesome,'” Jones said.

In 2016, the building at 1401 Bardstown Road became the third electric vehicle charging station installed by Evolve KY, the nonprofit Ungar group co-founded with Jonathan Tyson, its east Louisville neighbor and co-owner of the Nissan Leaf. .

The federal government is spending about $5 billion to build a nationwide network of electric vehicle chargers, as part of the bipartisan Infrastructure Act of 2021.

But Louisville already has a healthy network of free public charging stations, thanks in large part to Ungar’s “Adopt a Charger” program at Evolve KY.

Since its inception eight years ago, the nonprofit has installed chargers in nearly 60 locations – from YMCAs to churches to shopping malls – in Kentucky and southern Indiana, the great majority in the Louisville metropolitan area. That’s a significant portion of the 120 public charging stations within 50 miles of Louisville, according to a US Department of Energy database.

Additionally, like water coolers and wifi, anyone with an electric or plug-in hybrid car can use an Evolve KY charger. Some charging stations, including those operated by Louisville power company LG&E, require users to pay for electricity. Others are specific to vehicle brands.

Even the state-funded high-capacity chargers that Kentucky is about to install every 50 miles along interstates and major freeways may not be free to use. Details such as whether drivers will pay fees and who will pay for electricity have yet to be determined, Kentucky Transportation Secretary Jim Gray said.

Adding to the uncertainty is a new sales tax on electricity from electric vehicle chargers that Kentucky’s Republican-controlled legislature passed earlier this year. The tax will come into force in 2024.

“Something Everyone Can Do”

Ungar, who described his group as helping to “spread the gospel” of electric vehicles, said the aim was to facilitate the adoption of all-electric cars by providing plenty of charging options.

“Eight years ago the infrastructure was practically non-existent,” Ungar said. “You would find chargers, but they would be at car dealerships… They’re not located around a park. They are not located around cafes, restaurants or museums – places where you want to hang out. So we wanted to provide an infrastructure to show that electric vehicles are something that anyone can do.

A free charger near someone’s work, home, or errands can make electric vehicle ownership possible, especially since many people lack garages, off-street parking, and the ability to charging at their homes, Ungar said.

Electric vehicles remain a small but rapidly growing segment of the automotive market. About 5.6% of new car sales in the United States in 2022 were electric vehicles, with gasoline-electric hybrid cars and plug-in hybrids accounting for another 6.6%, according to Cox Automotive.

Legacy automakers such as Ford and General Motors are diving headlong into the electric vehicle space. Ford plans to cut electric vehicles to half of its sales by 2030, while GM plans to phase out gas-powered cars by 2035.

Kentucky, the third-largest auto-producing state, has a vested interest in the future of the industry. Governor Andy Beshear has proclaimed the Bluegrass State the nation’s electric vehicle battery capital, with Ford and Korean partner SK Innovation planning a $5 billion plant in Elizabethtown and a separate $2 billion plant planned for Bowling Green.

While private parties like Evolve KY have led the way, the federal government is about to pump money into electric vehicle infrastructure.

Together, Indiana and Kentucky are expected to spend nearly $200 million to install EV chargers over the next few years thanks to federal infrastructure law. The stations will be high-capacity “DC fast” chargers, which can fully charge an EV in about half an hour, and will be every 50 miles along highways and major highways.

Gray, Kentucky’s secretary of transportation, said the state plans to have 30 to 32 fast chargers along major highways by the end of 2024. Then the state will begin looking to electrify community places like parks of state.

“Over time, you’re going to see really sturdy construction,” Gray said.

Major Differences in Chargers

There are major differences between the chargers that Evolve KY can add to most businesses or public places and the super-fast chargers that the government will place along highways.

Most Evolve KY chargers have “Level 2” capability – the type that needs to be installed by an electrician and integrated into a home or business’s existing electricity bill. Level 2 chargers get about 25 miles of electric range per hour, Ungar said, so it takes several hours or even an overnight session to fully charge a car.

But Level 2 chargers can be installed for around $6,000 to $9,000, Ungar said. The “DC fast” chargers will cost about $1 million each, Gray said.

Ungar said his group pays Chargers through fundraisers, grants and sponsorships. Often the property owner organization will take the note. Meanwhile, the electricity consumed by vehicle chargers usually represents minimal cost to the charging host.

Last spring, Evolve KY oversaw the installation of chargers in eight Presbyterian churches around Louisville.

Paid for in part by denominational funds and in part by individual churches, Chargers are consistent with Presbyterian teaching about being good stewards of God’s creation, said Reverend John Odom, priest general of the Mid – Kentucky Presbytery, a group of 47 churches that are part of the American Presbyterian Church based in Louisville.

“It’s a great way to practice what we preach,” he said.

Churches calculated they could easily afford the extra $100 to $300 in electricity each year, he said.

Jones, the owner of Highland Cleaners, commissioned Ungar’s group to install a second charging station at Prospect Plaza, a shopping center he owns off US 42 in Prospect.

None of the charging stations lead to a significant increase in business, Jones said. No one waits very long at the dry cleaners, he says.

“We’re doing it more as a public enhancement,” Jones said. “…It’s literally just pennies of electricity. The cost is nothing.

Magazines at Jones properties have an even lower capacity – a standard called “Level 1” – than what Evolve KY installs today.

“Stuart asked me to upgrade them,” Jones said. “But, you know, one financial thing at a time.”

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