The new electric car charging stations in the K-State Union parking garage are off to a start, albeit a slow one.
The garage has installed charging station areas reserved for exclusive use by electric vehicle owners. Located on the first floor, these stations allow users to recharge their cars at a cost of $3 for the first hour and $1 for every hour after that, according to a Jan. 30 K-State press release. The charging stations are run on a first-come first-serve basis.
“The bottom line is that no one has used it yet,” said Darwin Abbott, director of parking services. “It’s not the result that any of us wanted.”
Current demand for the stations is not high, but having such little use was unexpected, Abbott said. The stations themselves are not what was expected, either.
“The original intent was to get ten solar-powered charging stations built,” Abbott said. “We figured it would be a little slow.”
According to new technology intelligence company Pike Research, America will be the leader in electric car sales by 2020, with electric model interest going up by outstanding rates. The wave of sales and interest may not be present in the midwest, however.
The reason for the change from solar power to indoor charging was not specified. Energy-efficient solar power is still the end goal, and the stations currently installed are just a step toward that.
“What’s in the garages now is a prototype,” said Anil Pahwa, professor of electrical and computer engineering. “Eventually we would like to have solar-paneled charging stations outside of the parking lot.”
Black & Veatch gave K-State a $200,000 grant for the charging stations in 2012. Pahwa and Larry Erickson, professor of chemical engineering, are partners in an effort to push K-State toward solar energy use. The charging stations in the parking garage work towards that goal, according to Pahwa.
“We have been doing this for a while. We had a project five years ago when solar panels were put on top of the engineering building,” Pahwa said.
The amount of solar panels and the efficiency of the stations are both on the list to be improved.
“We’re in the process of finding a new place to install solar panels,” Pahwa said. “In this way, we could become economically independent and energy independent.”
Pahwa said that cars weren’t the only things he would like to help become energy independent.
“We would definitely like to see every home owner have a solar panel for their house, but at that point it becomes hard to control,” Pahwa said. “We’re looking for techniques to get around issues like that.”
Abbott hopes that Pahwa and Erickson will figure out a way to make the charging stations’ use increase, but for now they stay in the parking lot, empty and waiting for a spark.
“They [Pahwa and Erickson] have a number of people with them to figure out why people don’t buy these cars,” Abbott said. “They’re working on a way around these problems.”