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Melrose leads the country with new EV charging technology

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Pole-mounted electric car chargers have been a huge success in Melrose.

An electric car charger mounted on a utility pole installed by National Grid in Melrose. national grid

Electric vehicles are becoming more popular, but there are still several factors to consider before making the switch. Price is also an important factor, as electric vehicles are still typically expensive. Yet another barrier to the widespread use of electric vehicles is access to charging stations.

Many communities now offer public EV charging stations, but owners also benefit from having their own charging facilities in garages and driveways. What about those who don’t have that type of space where they live? An innovative solution is rolling out in Melrose. The city became one of the first cities in the country to install EV charging stations attached to utility poles along roads.

These stations have multiple advantages. Most EV charging stations are expensive above-ground systems, requiring considerable space and extensive excavation to install. Pole-mounted EV chargers, on the other hand, are much cheaper. On average, she’s 40 percent cheaper than traditional ground-mounted chargers, according to Melrose Sustainability Manager Martha Grover.

It’s also easy to access, as it can be installed on most utility poles that already line city streets.

Melrose’s charger uses new technology that not only allows it to be mounted high on a pole, out of the way, but also accessible to the user. Specifically, the charger is mounted 10 feet above the pole. When an EV owner wants to charge her car, she can connect to the charging station via a smartphone app or simply by scanning her QR code under the pole. The charging cord automatically extends underneath the user, Glover said. They are also automatically stored when charging is complete.

The cord is 25 feet long and allows users to charge electric vehicles of all sizes. The EV charger he categorized into 3 levels, indicating how fast the vehicle can be charged. Melrose uses Level 2, the medium speed found in residential and commercial use.

EV chargers installed on utility poles are cheaper to install and convenient for residents.

A program to install these new chargers was initiated by the National Grid. The company approached Melrose with the concept in 2019, Glover said. They identified the city as an ideal location for testing.

“We’re a small city, but we’re very agile. We can usually navigate new projects and pilots very easily,” she said.

It took a lot of work to find the right place, especially since the technology was so new that those involved had to know how the charger worked and what problems it could encounter. Glover and other city officials worked to educate residents and dispel fears of having a “gas station” in front of their home, she said.

By April 2021, workers had installed the first batch of pole-mounted chargers. The city was the first on the East Coast, Glover said. At first he had four chargers installed, but now he has these chargers on his nine utility poles in Melrose. Some poles give him 15 extra EV charging ports in total, as he can accommodate two ports.

Los Angeles is the only place in the country with these chargers, Glover said. Seattle may be next, but Melrose is ahead.

All that work was not in vain. The station has proven popular. Glover said he knows this not only from hard data, but also as anecdotes, especially from residents without driveways or garages.

“Those are the people I’ve heard of,” she said. “A woman called me and said, ‘I live on the second floor of an apartment and there is no driveway. When I saw this on the street, I wanted to buy an electric car.'” She went out and bought a cheap used Nissan Leaf. You can use it to commute for a penny for a dollar,” Glover said.

The city has prioritized locating them near apartment complexes and recreational areas.

“It’s very convenient.

On average, residents use their chargers for about an hour and a half to two hours at a time. Since most EV charging still takes place at home or work, pole-mounted chargers are primarily used by drivers to charge their vehicles before heading to their final destination.

The National Grid is exploring options for expanding pole-mounted EV charging throughout Massachusetts, Glover said. You can already imagine how useful she will be for residents of large cities.

“This is proving to be cheaper and works, especially for people living in apartments, so we will see these in densely populated areas like Cambridge and Boston in the future,” she said. Told.