The Curb and North parking garages may soon become a destination for the more than 300 Nissan Leafs in the Nashville area with six free electric vehicle charging stations being installed on campus this month.
As part of The EV Project, a public-private partnership between ECOtality Inc. and the U.S. Department of Energy through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, BLINK Level 2 Wall Mount charging stations are provided without charge to Belmont University. The San Francisco, Calif.-based clean electric transportation company and the federal department are each covering half of BLINK’s costs, which usually retail for $3,000 each plus $400 in shipping and handling fees, said ECOtality Area Manager Stephanie Cox.
“We see this as being the future of fuel conservation,” said Alison McCommons in Belmont’s Office of University Counsel. “If there aren’t a lot of people that drive electric cars, then hopefully having the chargers on campus will encourage them to consider it as an option.”
Eliminating the need for drivers to stop and fuel up at gas stations, BLINK allows electric cars to charge while their drivers are at their destinations. Students and professors can charge their electric vehicles while in class and visitors while they are touring campus. Electric vehicle owners driving through the area also will see the stations appear on navigation units on their dashboard. The charging stations, three on the sixth floor of the Curb Garage and three on level one of the North Garage, are free and open to the public.
The Southern Alliance of Clean Energy made the initial introduction between Belmont and ECOtality as the company scouted universities and colleges with sustainability programs, Cox said.
“The purpose is to put charging stations around the country so that the Department of Energy can understand the emerging electric vehicle industry,” said ECOtality Area Manager Stephanie Cox. “Electric vehicles promote clean air and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. By putting up free charging stations and removing financial barriers, we are hoping to bring an ease of market for the early adapters and study their behavior.”
The EV Project has gathered more than 33 million miles of electric vehicle driver data that is used to create lessons learned and best practices, such as American with Disabilities Act accessibility, to help with future BLINK installations.
ECOtality aims to install 2,500 BLINK charging stations in Tennessee by the end of the year. Public charging has three purposes: to boost state of charge, extend the range of the vehicle and relieve range anxiety, Cox said.
To use the charging stations, the black boxes require a BLINK access card, which Cox said electric vehicle drivers would already own. Drivers without a card also can call the 1-800 number listed on BLINK for a guest code to access the electricity.
BLINK is part of a seven-year University effort to encourage faculty, staff and students to use alternative transportation —including the Music City Star rail system, Regional Transportation Authority of Middle Tennessee buses and Metropolitan Transit Authority buses—all of which the University provides free of charge. Free Music City Star rail system passes are available in Belmont Central for the train from Lebanon to downtown Nashville’s Riverfront Park. Free RTA Relax & Ride express bus service tickets also can be picked up in Belmont Central. Any student or employee with a Belmont-issued ID card can ride to and from the campus without charge simply by swiping a Belmont ID when boarding.
Members of the Belmont community and general public also may rent a vehicles by the hour from WeCar, a member-based car sharing program. The cars are parked in reserved spaces between Wright Hall and the Lawn.