BECKET — Chris Swindlehurst says his next car most likely won’t run on gasoline.
Instead, the Becket Select Board member will take advantage of Berkshire County’s first municipally-owned electric charging stations.
The two electric vehicle (EV) charging stations have been installed as part of a collaboration with Springfield-based Eversource Energy and the town.
James Cater, the program lead for the Eversource EV Make Ready Program, says the partnership aims to tackle and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the commonwealth.
At a Wednesday, Feb. 12 press conference held at the Becket Town Hall, Cater and elected officials celebrated the installation of the two EV charging stations.
“In Massachusetts, transportation represents about 40 to 45 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the state,” Cater said. “If we’re going to get at reducing that in greenhouse gas emissions, a big part of it is about the electrification of the transport sector.”
From Pittsfield to Provincetown, Eversource hopes to advance this method of clean energy and EV adoption, said Cater.
Typically, Eversource pays for 90 percent of the total cost of installing the EV charging stations, with municipalities only having to foot the bill for the charging equipment. But since Becket is an Environmental Justice (EJ) Community, recognized by the commonwealth using 2010 Census data, Eversource Energy covers 100 percent of the costs, including the charges station.
EJ populations are determined by identifying all Census 2010 block groups that meet any one of three criteria that relates to income, minority population and English language isolation, including households that earn 65 percent or less of the state-wide median household income; a minority population of 25 percent or higher; and having 25 percent or more households that have no one over the age of 14 who speaks English only, or very well. A majority of Becket meets the income criterion, according to data from the Environmental Justice Policy of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
Other Berkshire County EJ communities include Lee, Lenox, Sheffield and Great Barrington.
Swindlehurst says he’s been inspired by fellow select board member, Michael Lavery, who is the owner of a Chevrolet Bolt, a fully electric vehicle.
Lavery bought the car last April and says he has only had to use his backup Subaru a handful of times during periods of heavy snow.
“It’s a sign of the times,” said Lavery, the board’s vice-chairperson. “I think we are a green community and I think we want to remain that way. A lot of folks are living here after transplanting from New York and other places. They are older and they were probably demonstrating in the 1960s to get rid of the nuclear power plants, and now this is their way to demonstrate and stand up for renewable resources.”
Lavery announced during the press conference that Becket is seriously looking at a large-scale wind turbine, as their neighboring town Otis has done. The town is also considering adopting a dollar-per-hour rate to offset an annual fee for the EV chargers.
“We’re going to arrive at a cost-per-hour usage here once we figure out what it costs,” Lavery said. “Our yearly influx of summer campers and second-home owners can now bring their electric cars and not have range-anxiety. The gas-burning car drivers don’t have a place to fill up in town, yet.”
Swindlehurst echoed Lavery’s concern of range-anxiety for people who own electric or hybrid vehicles.
“People need to be comfortable that there’s enough charging infrastructure where they travel,” Swindlehurst said.
In the meantime, Lavery said that the new EV charging stations have been used 40 times since their arrival last October by nearly 20 unique users, including himself. He sees EV charging stations as a look into the future and expanding into surrounding areas of Berkshire County.
“Every time I get in, I feel like this is the future,” Lavery said. “I feel like the Jetsons or something.”