Charged up: Clark event heralds area’s first EV plug-in stations

Clark VP for Government and Community Affairs Jack Foley, left, and Congressman James McGovern check out the EV charging station outside the Lasry Center for Biosciences. (Photos: Steven King)

On any typical weekday, the parking lot at the Lasry Center for Biosciences is packed with cars. But on the afternoon of April 2, several of the vehicles in the lot had their hoods open, with a crowd of people examining the cars’ inner workings.

Their curiosity was understandable, since these were no ordinary automobiles. They were electric vehicles (EVs) — the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi MiEV and BMW ActiveE —on display to help celebrate the debut of a new charging station where EV owners can “plug in.”

The April 2 event marked the debut of EV charging stations at Clark (a second station is located behind the Downing Street Administration Building), Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Quinsigamond Community College and other sites around the city. Clark’s stations were the first in the city to be activated.

The Institute for Energy & Sustainability (IES), a non-profit housed at Clark, received a Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources grant to install 10 charging stations in Central Massachusetts. They are among more than 150 stations awarded to more than 20 municipalities across the state.

The stations, manufactured by Coulomb Technologies, are called ChargePoint portals. The parking-meter-like units cost $3.50 per hour of charge and are part of the firm’s international ChargePoint Network that helps online users locate stations within an EV’s mileage range, generally 100 miles per charge.

Coverage of the April 2 event at the Lasry Center appeared in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Worcester Magazine and Worcester Business Journal.

In a program held inside the Lasry Center lobby, Clark President David Angel noted the strong partnerships involving participants from federal, state and city government, private business and higher education that have put Worcester “at the cutting edge of another sustainability initiative.”

President David Angel talks with a visitor at the event.

Congressman James McGovern, one of a series of speakers, said the cars parked in the Lasry lot gave people the chance to “see and touch success stories” in green technology.

“We are all affected by the volatility of oil prices, and now right here in Worcester and across the commonwealth we have the opportunity to say no to five-dollar-per-gallon dependence on foreign oil,” McGovern said. “We must continue to aggressively target green technology and transportation opportunities on the local level, and every step we take toward energy independence leads us toward a cleaner environment and more peaceful world.”

Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs said he sees the stirrings of a “green energy revolution” whose banner must be carried forward. He pointed to the three foundations of the Massachusetts economy — infrastructure, education and innovation — as the drivers of change, adding that the state currently has 64,000 people working in the clean energy industry, with a predicted 12 to 15 percent growth in that sector next year.

Sullivan counseled that the green energy revolution will unfold deliberately.

Edward White, vice president for customer and business strategy for National Grid, speaks to an audience of about 100.

“It happens city by city, town by town, business by business, and home by home,” he said. “We have conversations about where our energy comes from, how we can use it more efficiently and effectively, and ensure that it’s better for the environment. Those conversations will start to change the way people think about energy and the decisions they make about how they use it.”

Massachusetts has created an Energy Climate Plan, with a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020, and 80 percent by 2050. An estimated 30 percent of those reductions will come through transportation improvements, said Mark Sylvia, commissioner for the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources. Introducing electric cars, hybrids and alternative-fuel vehicles into the mass market will “lead us in the right direction,” he said.

When considering the many issues surrounding where and how many charging stations to place in Worcester, Edward White, vice president for customer and business strategy for National Grid, offered a baseball metaphor from the movie “Field of Dreams”: If you build it, they will come.

Also offering remarks at the April 2 event were WPI President Dennis Berkey; Quinsigamond Community College President Gail Carberry; Vincent DeVito, executive director of the Institute for Energy & Sustainability; and Tim McGourthy, chief development officer for the city of Worcester.

 ~ Jim Keogh, Director of News and Editorial Services