Greenbelt, MD Rejects Free Fast Charging Proposal

Greenbelt Charger Fee

Idea to Help Local Businesses During Pandemic

A member of the Greenbelt, Maryland City Council proposed to waive the fee to use the DC Fast Charger by the Municipal Building in the Roosevelt Center at 25 Crescent Rd.

Mayor Pro Tem Emmett Jordan had recently received an email from staff informing the Council Members that the charging station, which had been broken for an extended period, was now fixed. Mr. Jordan realized that the charging station presented an opportunity to draw people into the Roosevelt Center to patronize the businesses that are feeling the economic impact of the current pandemic.

“If you look at the businesses in Roosevelt Center right now, they’re struggling. They’re having a really, really hard time.” Mr. Jordan said during last night’s City Council meeting. “I’d like to go ahead and waive the fees while the emergency is in place. Anything we can do to attract more people into Roosevelt Center, we need to do.”

The charger, which opened in August, 2017, was initially free to use. The City Council decided to initiate a fee which started in January, 2019. At the time, the Council felt that the free charging was being abused by commercial drivers and people who lived outside of Greenbelt. After the fee was implemented, usage fell precipitously. According to data obtained from the Maryland Energy Administration, there were only 27 charging sessions at the Greenbelt charger in the three months between April 1 and June 30, 2020. That was down from 1182 sessions in the same calendar period in 2018.

Source: Greenbelt usage data from Quarterly Reports submitted to MEA

Data to Guide Decision

In the discussion with his colleagues to convince them to vote to approve his proposal, Mr. Jordan noted, “If you look at surrounding municipalities – Hyattsville, Laurel – there are plenty of places where people can go to charge their cars now and that wasn’t the case maybe three years ago.”

I attended last night’s virtual Council Meeting and provided some statistics on the prices at other nearby Fast Chargers that I thought may be helpful to the Council.

  • Hyattsville: Free
  • Royal Farms: $0.29 per kWh.
  • Tesla in Riverdale Park: $0.27 per kWh
  • Pepco and BGE: $0.34 per kWh

I reminded the Council that their Fast Charger was funded in part by state grants to support Maryland’s goal of having 300,000 zero-emission electric vehicles on the road by 2025. Did they had an explanation for the sharp drop in usage over the past two years? I also pointed out that the reports submitted to MEA stated 100% uptime and asked if that was accurate. They responded that the charger had actually been broken since July and had only been fixed a few weeks ago. See Advocating for EV Charger Reliability at the Maryland PSC

Some of the Council Members were open to finding ways to help the merchants by attracting more visitors but didn’t think that providing free charging was the best way to do it. They discussed possibilities to limit the free charging to verified residents but they found no easy solutions.

City Council Votes 4-3 Against

After about 30 minutes of discussion, they voted three yes and four no and the motion was defeated. As a result of the discussion, they will be considering signs or other means to discourage or prohibit taxis and other commercial vehicles from using the charger. See: No, You Can’t Charge Here – Taxi, Uber, Lyft Drivers Banned

October 26, 2020 Greenbelt, MD City Council Meeting Video (starts at 1:27:10)

Even though they voted against fee-free charging, EV drivers can still visit Greenbelt or other towns that offer charging stations and support the local merchants. Here is a link to places to visit in Greenbelt. If you charge your car while shopping, eating or visiting, be sure to let the merchants and local government officials know that the charging stations are part of the attraction.