The city of St. Peter is looking into options for more electric car charging stations in the downtown area, with plans to discuss the idea with downtown business owners later this month.
According to Community Development Director Russ Wille, the Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (SMMPA) has put together programs to assist with developing and installing electric chargers. Wille added that there are about 6,000 electric vehicles in Minnesota today.
“This is certainly an emerging industry,” he said. “It’s imperative that there be a network of charging stations available to help support the industry.”
As of right now, there are only two electric vehicle charging stations in St. Peter: one at Gustavus Adolphus College (reserved only for campus employees) and one at the new Best Western Plus. There is an electric charging outlet at Kwik Trip as well, but it is a simple 120-volt outlet that would take several days to fully charge a vehicle.
City Administrator Todd Prafke explained that there are three different levels of charging stations. The least expensive are level one chargers, which are typically used in residents’ homes for overnight charging. In addition, they can be plugged into a standard wall outlet. However, these chargers typically only deliver about 2-5 miles of range per hour of charging.
Level two charging stations can’t be plugged into a standard wall outlet, so they’re more costly to install and to maintain. Prafke said these chargers cost about $1,000. However, they’re able to add about 180 miles to a car per eight-hour charge, or a little over 20 miles per hour.
Level three (also known as DC Fast Chargers) can charge vehicles the most quickly, adding 60-100 miles of range to a car in only 20 minutes. However, not all electric vehicles can be charged at these stations, and they require highly specialized equipment to install and maintain. They can cost around $20,000.
Public Works Director Pete Moulton said the city has been discussing the topic with SMMPA, with the hope that SMMPA could help finance and install the charging stations, while the city of St. Peter would provide electricity. He said SMMPA has been increasingly interested in sustainable energy sources in recent years, and St. Peter would be an ideal location because of the traffic it receives, especially along Hwy. 169.
“They’re looking at ways to help us build our baseload electrically,” Moulton said. “SMMPA told us that if we can find ways to implement these within our business community, they’re interested in helping us.”
Moulton added that the city is interested in installing electric vehicle charging stations regardless of whether SMMPA ends up assisting with the work. The plan now is to talk with St. Peter’s downtown business owners to gauge if there is enough interest.
“We want to talk to downtown business owners,” Wille agreed. “We don’t have any idea of how we’re going to do this; we just want to see if they’re interested.”
Moulton said there are a variety of options available, depending on what area businesses would be interested in, such as the business providing the land for a station in the hopes of attracting customers to their property. One option would be that businesses could charge for use of the stations, as well as possibly providing vouchers to customers.
Moulton said, right now, the city is looking at installing one fast charger and four level two chargers, which would take up about 5-6 parking stalls. But it depends on what the interest is. He also added that the chargers would most likely be installed somewhere along 169.
“We don’t want to rule anything out at this point,” he said. “We don’t really know how that’s going to pan out now. We want to throw this out there for them to help us decide the easiest and best way to help us grow their businesses. We’ve got the infrastructure in place to serve a lot of places along Hwy. 169.”
“We can make it our own and do anything you can imagine with it,” Prafke agreed. “There’s still more work to do. We don’t have it all figured out. But this is how you start.”
The meeting will take place at the St. Peter Community Center at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 15.