Brewster To Investigate Adding Public EV Chargers

by Rich Eldred
A public EV charging station at the Park and Ride at Route 124 in Harwich. Brewster currently has no publicly available charging stations; officials hope to remedy that soon. FILE PHOTO A public EV charging station at the Park and Ride at Route 124 in Harwich. Brewster currently has no publicly available charging stations; officials hope to remedy that soon. FILE PHOTO

BREWSTER – Electric vehicle adoption may be slower than some would like, but Brewster is looking to ensure that the infrastructure is available for residents and visitors who drive EVs.

“Brewster is one of only two towns on the Cape that do not have public EV charging stations,” Edwin Weatherby of the Energy and Climate Action Committee observed at last week’s meeting. Chatham is the other community, although public EV chargers are being installed at the Eldredge Garage parking area now under construction and should be ready to use by the summer.

Brewster has EV chargers, just none available for the public in general.

“There are private ones at Ocean Edge, Captain Freeman’s B&B has a Tesla charger,” Weatherby said. “The big issue here is we don’t have a downtown area of any kind. If my research is right, Massachusetts will pay 80 percent for an installation up to $50,000 if it is publicly available. There’s a fair amount of money out there. We have to figure how to go after it.”

Range anxiety is a big reason many people are reluctant to buy EVs. Being able to find a Tesla or other charging station or one provided by a public entity such as a municipality is important for both visitors and residents.

Since most other towns have at least a few public chargers available, Brewster’s committee has been looking for possible locations to install them.

“I’ll talk to (Town Manager) Peter (Lombardi) about what he would like us to do next, to have a little presentation to the select board about our locations that we want to pursue or not,” committee Chair Chuck Hanson said.

Weatherby did much of the investigation into locations for the committee.

“It’s the Brewster Ladies’ Library, the golf course or Lemon Tree which are the next ones, and we don’t own Lemon Tree so that could be a difficult negotiation,” Weatherby said. Lemon Tree Village is a privately developed shopping plaza on Route 6A with 12 shops and a restaurant.

Committee members will check with other towns such as Orleans to see how they installed their public chargers, which are across from the Hot Chocolate Sparrow.

“The next step here…is to get some support from the select board, select an installation location and secure some installation quotes,” Weatherby said. “The benefit of the library is there’s a little bit of walking. You can go to the Brewster Store. You can go get a cup of coffee, but it’s not like a downtown [as in] Chatham. The Lemon Tree has much more local shopping, [and] it does have a place to eat.”

Charging times for level two chargers can be long, with just 10 percent of the full charge restored in an hour. So what is an EV owner to do while his battery soaks up electrons? That’s why most charging stations are downtown or in shopping plazas.

“The benefit to doing this is not making money on the electricity. It’s the commerce that it brings the town,” Weatherby explained. “So you want to advertise it so people know they can come here and charge their EV, and then you want to have something that’s going to generate commerce. To me that’s the benefit of the Lemon Tree area.”

“If it’s publicly available it will appear in cars automatically,” Richard Wolf said.

Bruce Semple wondered who installs and operates the chargers, and other committee members wondered if the state money is available if the charger is on private property. Those questions still need to be sorted out. Hanson noted that there are 12 Tesla charging stations at the Stop and Shop plaza in Orleans. Tesla is in the process of working out agreements with some other automakers to use their charging stations; Ford has reached an agreement, but owners of its EVs must buy an adapter and download software to use the Tesla stations, according to Wolf.

“I think we should push all three locations,” Wolfe said. “Check with the owner of the Lemon Tree. I think the Lemon Tree is the best location in town.”

Colin Odell said Brewster eventually would be going for plug-ins or hybrids for its inspectors and other official town vehicles.

“I cannot believe that the town would not be willing to accept $50,000 towards the cost of a charger for checking a box that says it’s available to the public when the town doesn’t have a car plugged in there,” Odell said.

So town hall, or wherever Brewster decides to install its municipal chargers, could be a fourth possible location.

“I would assume they would be available most of the day because that’s when (the town EVs) would be used,” select board liaison Cindy Bingham added.

There’s still a lot of research to be done on the exact specifications of the grants, operation of the chargers, outreach and research. No Brewstrerites or visitors will be publicly plugging in soon.