Free EV Charging Stations Coming to The Mall in Columbia

VOLTA Charging

Volta Charging Supported by Advertising Signs

Downtown Columbia, Maryland is a hotbed of electric vehicle charging station growth. In February this year, 40 charging ports came online in the Merriweather District Garage near the Merriweather Post Pavilion concert venue.

Last month, 14 more charging ports were powered on at the Juniper Merriweather Apartments right next door.

The stations at the apartments may be there to satisfy the Howard County EV-Ready ordinance that became effective in January, 2019. That new law requires the developer to put in at least one EV charging station for each 25 living units for newly constructed multi-residential buildings. It looks like the developer is working toward LEED Gold certification so that may be a factor in placing a few extra charging ports beyond the EV-Ready requirement.

Just down the street from Merriweather, BGE installed six charging stations at the Howard County Library Central Branch. These utility-owned public charging stations are part of a five-year ratepayer-funded pilot program approved by the Public Service Commission in 2019. The Level 2 stations at the library cost $0.18/kWh. That price may change periodically in response to market conditions subject to review by regulators.

Locations by Nordstroms and the Cheesecake Factory

The Mall in Columbia is within a short walk of the library. Volta Charging has started construction on a series of free EV charging stations at different spots around the mall. According to a permit issued by Howard County on May 22nd, they are working on 14 new electric car charging stations. Among the areas marked for construction is in front of Nordstroms and by the Cheesecake Factory.

The Mall in Columbia – South East Garage, Floor 2

These free EV charging stations are supported by advertising which is displayed on a large digital screen on each unit. Volta claims to be the world’s most highly used EV charging network.

Volta says their business model isn’t to make money from selling electricity to EV drivers. They don’t see a future in that. Instead, Volta partners with highly-visited retail locations such as shopping malls and grocery stores where they can display advertising messages on the built-in screen while providing free charging.

The Mall in Columbia is operated by Brookfield Properties. This group also runs the White Marsh Mall in northern Baltimore County. White Marsh Mall has eight Volta charging stations. Towson Town Center, another Brookfield managed property, also has Volta charging stations.

The Free Market

An interesting dynamic is forming in the middle of Columbia, Maryland. When these Voltas are energized, the area within a half-mile radius of the mall will have nearly 100 Level 2 charging ports. Most of them will be free. Some of them will cost more than getting electricity at home. We will monitor the usage of the downtown Columbia charging stations in the coming months. Let the free market decide.