City eyes car charging stations

More electrical vehicle charging stations in Newport are on the table, with city officials making efforts to see where else charging stations are needed. So far, there is one publicly-available charging station on Ninth and Hurburt Streets. (Photo by Madeline Shannon)

NEWPORT — City officials are pushing for more electric charging stations in Newport to accommodate the needs of the growing number of electric car drivers making their way through the central coast. 

Newport City Councilor Dietmar Goebel brought the issue up to the city as part of an effort to secure more electric vehicle charging stations for visitors to the central coast. The city has one public charging station in the parking lot on Hurbert Street and 9th Street, which was installed as part of a statewide program paid for by a $2 million “TIGERII” grant awarded from the Oregon Department of Transportation. Approximately 21 other Oregon communities got portions of that money for the installation of electric vehicle charging stations. 

Webasto Charging Systems, Inc., which holds the ground lease for the charging station in Newport, pays a five percent lease payment to the city. The monthly usage at that station ranges from 21 charges to 64 charges, with the highest number collected from August 2017. While the usage is relatively stable from month to month, the kilowatt usage increased, showing a possible change in the quality of the technology in electric vehicles. 

“If you don’t own an electric vehicle now, in the next 10 years, you probably will,” Goebel said. “I think electric cars are coming. There’s a move towards that and a direction towards that.”

Newport residents who already own their own electric vehicles charge their cars at home, Goebel said. However, tourists who come through this stretch of the coast don’t have that option. 

“I’ve had calls in the last month saying, ‘Where can I charge my car?’” said Goebel. “I say Ninth and Hurbert. That’s the only one we have that’s public.”

Tourists with electric cars might not stay in Newport if they can’t charge their car, Goebel said, and will overnight somewhere else. 

“We need to start talking to the bigger hotels in town and say maybe we need to have them start putting charging stations in for guests who want to overnight charge,” Goebel said. 

The charging station in Newport is adaptable for all makes and models, said Ryan Parker, another Newport city councilor. 

“There is a new charging commercial station going in by the college,” he said. “A developer actually bought the charger and it’s waiting to be installed by a licensed electrician with a valid Newport electrical permit.”

Hallmark Inns & Resorts already has a charging station for guests, but it’s not generally available to the public. Hotel managers there said guests come in almost on a daily basis who use that charging station. 

“I’ve never kept track of the number, but someone’s using it on a daily basis to charge their vehicle,” said Amanda Maddox, revenue and reservations manager at Hallmark Inns & Resorts in Newport. “We get more in the summer, for sure, because the occupancy levels are higher.”

Maddox noted many of the Hallmark’s electric car customers drive Teslas, although there have been other makes and models coming through the local hotel, she said. Adding more charging stations around the city would be a great option, she added.

“There are some instances, where, because our station is first-come, first-served, someone is often already using it,” Maddox said of the Hallmark’s charging station for guests. “We will tell people about the Ninth and Hurbert charging station or call our guest and ask if someone else can have a turn.”

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