OCEAN CITY — Ocean City officials agree the continued proliferation of electric-powered cars could be the wave of the future for the resort, but continue to struggle with exactly where to put potential charging stations.
More and more electric-powered and hybrid vehicles are visiting the resort, finding places to charge them continue to be a challenge. In April, the town hosted a Tesla convention that drew over 100 of the high-end electric-powered cars, but most participants had to charge up in areas outside the resort. To that end, Tesla has presented a grant to the town to facilitate the installation of charging stations in the future, but resort officials continue to wrestle with just where to put them.
Through the grant from Tesla, Ocean City has agreed to install three charging stations at the Convention Center parking lot, but even deciding on the exact location for those stations has presented challenges. City Engineer Terry McGean explained the original proposed locations did not have the high-voltage electric service needed to support the charging stations. Instead, McGean suggested moving the stations to a different area of the Convention Center’s vast parking complex.
“The location we intended to use for the Tesla equipment is the wrong voltage and Tesla does not provide equipment that is compatible,” he told the Mayor and Council on Tuesday. “We then reached out to Delmarva Power for new service at that location, but the closest pole that they can provide service from is at the northeast corner. Instead, we have identified a site at the north side of the south parking lot that is compatible.”
With that dilemma dispensed with, town officials set their sights on other potential locations for charging stations in the resort. McGean explained another private sector company has expressed interest in installing charging stations at different locations in Ocean City, including Northside Park and 4th Street, which would create stations in both the north and south ends of the town.
“We’ve been approached by another agency interested in installing universal charging stations,” said McGean. “They handle the installation and there is no cost for us, but we have to decide on the spots. They are suggesting Northside Park and 4th Street, but really any of our municipal lots would do.”
However, resort officials were not keen on the 4th Street location because the proposed site includes highly-used, revenue-generating municipal parking spaces. Mayor and Acting City Manager Rick Meehan agreed the proposed Northside Park location made sense, but and suggested a second charging station at the municipal lot at 100th Street rather than downtown.
“Those are metered spaces at 4th Street and they generate a lot of revenue,” he said. “I like the Northside Park spot, but I think we should utilize a second location at 100th Street.”
McGean agreed the 100th Street lot made sense because it is less utilized than other proposed locations and already has the electric power on site to support the charging stations. However, that would put both in the north end of town and didn’t solve the problem of having a charging location in the south end.
“The issue we’re facing is finding a location where we don’t charge for parking,” he said. “We had the municipal lot at 1st Street and St. Louis, but that’s where the new water tower is going.”
Council President Lloyd Martin agreed with Meehan’s proposal for two charging locations in the north end.
“I’d rather see Northside Park and 100th Street,” he said. “I’m not keen on losing a parking spot at 4th Street. We’ll have somebody driving around downtown looking for a place to park and finding one, only to find out it is a charging station.”
McGean said with no cost to the town, the number of potential charging stations was practically unlimited, but reiterated finding just the right spots was challenging. Councilman Tony DeLuca said the challenges could be overcome and suggested the staff explore as many potential locations as possible.
“The more spots the better,” he said. “This is the future and the more charging stations we have, the more electric cars we can welcome to Ocean City.”
While the private sector would pay for the installation of the stations, there would be a cost associated with providing the electricity to charge the vehicles. Meehan said the cost was likely minimal considering the economic benefit of more potential visitors to the resort, and suggested electric car operators would find the stations regardless of their locations.
“We’re providing a convenience at no charge and people are going to look at the maps to see where they are,” he said.
After considerable debate, the council voted to approve the locations at the Convention Center lot, Northside Park and the 100th Street lot and instructed staff to explore other downtown sites to consider.