EDITORIAL: Getting ready in Wallingford for electric vehicles

EDITORIAL: Getting ready in Wallingford for electric vehicles

The electric cars are coming, but will we be ready for them? Plug-in electric vehicles (that is, those that don’t have a fossil-fueled engine to recharge their batteries) are available now or on their way from a raft of carmakers: Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Smart, Volkswagen, Volvo and of course Tesla, which has more models than anyone else.

It’s the big trend, with some European manufacturers already planning to go all-electric in the not-so-distant future.

And yet, it’s hard to see how electric cars can take over until there’s a comprehensive and convenient network of charging stations to service them. Will those stations simply appear as soon as people start buying more electrics? Or will people hesitate to buy until the stations are in place?

Without necessarily being able to answer that question, Wallingford is looking at zoning changes that would make it easier for charging stations to appear. The Planning and Zoning Commission may change the regulations defining vehicle fueling stations to include electric charging stations.

Town Planner Kacie Hand said that the modified zoning regulations would allow “vehicle fueling stations,” not just gas stations, as an accessory use on a case-by-case basis.

This is in keeping with the town’s 2016 Plan of Conservation and Development, which made sustainability a goal. The PZC will continue the public hearing on the issue at its July meeting.

The issue came up when SAI Group submitted an application in February to build a row of electric vehicle charging stations at Walmart, 844 N. Colony Road. SAI is managing a project to install high-speed electric vehicle charging stations nationwide for Electrify America, a subsidiary of Volkswagen of America.

The Electrify America initiative is part of a legal settlement Volkswagen agreed to after the Environmental Protection Agency caught the carmaker using a tricky computer program to cheat on emissions tests for millions of its diesel vehicles.

By order of the consent decree, Volkswagen is investing more than $2 billion over 10 years in an electric vehicle charging infrastructure network in the United States and working to create a greater awareness of the benefits of zero-emission transportation.

Part of the plan is to place electric vehicle charging stations in well-lit places where amenities such as shopping are available to the motorists — thus, a location such as Walmart would be ideal.

For owners of all-electric vehicles, finding a charging station can still be a challenge, in part because the list of stations on the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection website hasn’t been updated since July 2017.

Most towns in this area have between two and five charging stations, but they are not all open to the public. By moving ahead on the zoning front, Wallingford is getting ready for an electric-motoring future that may upon us sooner than we think.