The ChargePoint charger, which charges electric vehicles, was installed on Main Street in front of the Tennessee Williams Home and Welcome Center Wednesday. Columbus Light and Water leased it from the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association for the next five years. It is the first EV charging station in downtown Columbus. Photo by: Jennifer Mosbrucker/Dispatch Staff
July 27, 2019 10:11:21 PM
Downtown Columbus' first charging station for drivers of plug-in electric cars was installed Wednesday.
The ChargePoint charger is located in front of the Tennessee Williams Home and Welcome Center, at 300 Main St. The Columbus Light and Water board voted two months ago to lease the charger from the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association for five years, ending in 2024, CLW director Todd Gale said.
Area attorney Gawyn Mitchell was one of the first to use it, charging his 2015 Tesla Model S 85D there during an unveiling ceremony Friday. Mitchell primarily uses a personal charger at his home.
He bought his car in February -- not because he sought an eco-conscious car, but rather to move away from gas.
"That's what I'm about, not having to rely on the oil," Mitchell said.
The station can service any electric vehicle (EV) regardless of make and model, Gale said. The cost of charging is 75 cents per hour. Charging time is dependent on the vehicle type.
The location was selected with city residents, tourists and people traveling through town in mind. The station itself comes equipped with a screen so local businesses have the opportunity to advertise there.
"It's close to downtown, so people can park, shop around and leave," Gale said.
With the future of automotive travel headed away from gas-powered cars, he said he's "pretty sure that this is going to be the first of a few" leased by the board.
It's the 11th public charging station in a 15-kilometer radius of the city, according to ChargeHub, an app that maps charging stations nationwide.
Other stations in the area include those at Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott, Courtyard by Marriott and Hampton Inn and Suites, all off Highway 45. Each of the hotels has Tesla-specific chargers except for Fairfield Inn and Suites, which offers a charger compatible with various electric cars.
Columbus Nissan, located at 100 MS-12, has a charger compatible with a variety of cars, too.
A small but growing industry
The presence of electric cars is growing in the state. Sales doubled from 2017 to 2018, although Mississippians still drive electric vehicles at the lowest per-capita rate in the United States, said Matt Doude, associate director of Mississippi State University's Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems.
Doude conducts research focused on electric and autonomous vehicles at the center. He said only about 0.2 percent of new car sales in 2018 were plug-in hybrids or electric vehicles.
"You have states like California where the number is closer to 10 percent," Doude said.
The state also has a low number of charging stations proportionate to the number of electric cars. There are 164 public charging outlets total, according to data from the U.S. Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels Data Center.
Of Mississippi's total population -- approximately 2.9 million people -- 51.2 percent live in rural areas, making up the fourth largest rural population in the country. But other states with significant rural populations, including Montana and North Dakota, still outpace Mississippi in terms of electric car sales, Doude said.
The perception of energy-efficient vehicles in the South as slow or small can explain the low numbers of sales among some states in the region, as well as few readily-available energy-efficient pickup trucks, he said.
"People here love obviously pickup trucks ... and there are really no plug-in hybrid pickup trucks readily available," Doude said. "Those are coming soon, but there aren't many right now, and that's probably put a damper on it here."
A lack of tax credits for private citizens likely affects the state's rate, too. However, a new wave of consumers is expected around 2025, when gas-powered cars are predicted to cost more than electric vehicles, Doude said.
"That's kind of a big tipping point that's been on the horizon for a while," Doude said.
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