Plug the parking meter and plug in the car. It may be a concept coming to Lawrence.
City commissioners at their meeting this evening are being asked to apply for up to $250,000 in federal stimulus funds that would create new “fueling stations” for electric-hybrid cars, and also allow the city and county to add four new electric vehicles to their fleet.
“We have an opportunity to create a lot of awareness about electric cars,” said City Commissioner Aron Cromwell. “I think we’re going to start seeing a lot more of them.”
The grant would provide funding to build two electric-vehicle charging stations in public parking lots — likely near downtown or near Kansas University.
“We want to be a leader and show our residents that there are these new technologies that are becoming more feasible all the time,” said Eileen Horn, the city/county sustainability coordinator.
Just how feasible electric cars are, though, is something Lawrence leaders hope to find out. The grant proposal includes a plan for Kansas University researchers to study how electric vehicles perform in city and county fleets.
As part of the grant, the city and county each would purchase a Ford Escape hybrid vehicle and convert it so it runs entirely using electricity. The city also is proposing to purchase two specially equipped trash trucks that use electricity instead of diesel to run much of the trucks’ hydraulics.
Many electric vehicles have a range of 30 to 40 miles before they must be charged. That’s where publicly provided charging stations could come in handy.
Cromwell said he wants to consider placing a charging station in a new parking garage that would be part of an expanded public library, which will be considered by voters in November. Other locations under consideration include the city parking garage at Ninth and New Hampshire, a county parking lot near 11th and Massachusetts, or at Fire Station No. 5 at 19th and Iowa street near KU.
Horn said she can envision people driving electric cars downtown and using the charging station to give their batteries a boost while they go to work or take care of errands.
Cromwell, who is an environmental consultant by trade, thinks the idea eventually could even provide an extra source of revenue for the city. He said he recently visited a Canadian city where many parking meters offered motorists the chance to buy electricity from the city. In that case, the electricity was for engine block heaters that make it easier to start cars in cold weather. But Cromwell could see the concept working for electric cars, too.
“There are some interesting ideas out there,” Cromwell said.
The grant, if awarded, would require $380,000 in matching funds from the city and $30,000 in funds from the county. Horn said the city and county already have set aside those amounts in their 2011 budgets for traditional vehicle purchases. The grant would pay for the added costs of buying electric vehicles, and would provide money to build the public charging stations.
City officials expect to learn whether they’ve been awarded the grant by mid-September.