Owosso City Council has approved the Owosso Main Street/DDA loan approval for $34,257 for plans to install an electric vehicle fast charging station, though the precise site has not been decided on. The loan amount will serve as match dollars for a PowerMIDrive grant or rebate toward the installation, with the total estimated project cost set at around $200,000.
During the Monday evening virtual meeting, council members voted 5 to 2 to approve the loan to OMS/DDA. Owosso Mayor Pro Tem Sue Osika and council member Dan Law were the no votes.
The condition council decided upon highlighted reservations on the original suggested location of the Fountain Parking Lot in downtown Owosso. Owosso Mayor Pro Tem Sue Osika (also an OMS/DDA member), along with council members Janae Fear, Nick Pidek and Dan Law have all expressed concerns over the Fountain Parking Lot location – adjoining a dumpster area.
Several council members and DDA members were recently involved in a public question-and-answer meeting to discuss details regarding what could become the first such station of its kind in Shiawassee County. One member of OMS/DDA, James Woodworth, resigned during the middle of the process, allegedly over frustrations connected to city council questions on the project. It was shared during the OMS/DDA public meeting with council members that Woodworth had been instrumental in initiating the project, which would have been located in the parking area behind his AirBnB property – The Fountain Parking Lot.
In a memorandum from OMS/DDA Executive Director Josh Adams, the project process started in the summer of 2019, gathering information from downtown property owners and tenants. That input was used last November to apply for a Consumers Power/PowerMIDrive grant, which was awarded in January. The grant will cover 80 percent ($158,500) of costs connected to the purchase and installation.
OMS/DDA first approached council to request a loan on the remaining portion of the cost. Some discussion on sponsorships for matching funds has also taken place earlier this year, but with the pandemic, it was decided the timing was inappropriate. OMS/DDA will pay on the loan on a monthly basis – as it is believed that consumer use of the charging station will provide the money for the loan.
During the Monday meeting, Fear stated she recognized, “The future is electric cars.” However, she explained research suggests only about 900,000 electric cars are projected to join the electric car market across the U.S. over the next year. As Fear pointed out, the number is not that high ¬– and hints that an Owosso fast charging station may not be utilized often enough to make the investment worthwhile. Fear did vote in favor of the station, mostly based on knowing the station can be sold if it does not work out, but shared she remained torn on the Fountain Parking Lot location.
Owosso Mayor Pro Tem Sue Osika was strongly against the station plan. Her research demonstrated to her that the station isn’t going to generate enough revenue to repay the loan. She also expressed concern over the timing of such a station in Owosso – her thinking being that the cost of the new technology will likely go down in the near future as competition builds.
Another concern Osika discussed is the proposed plan for a charging station to be installed at the PS Food Mart location in Perry. The PS Food Mart location, under the Folk Oil Company, is directly off of I-69 and so it would be a logical site for this type of station. Osika stated she thinks the Perry charging station will be operational before the end of the year.
The OMS/DDA plans, based on the grant, require a 440 DC fast charging station (Level 3), allowing for a vehicle to be charged in approximately a 20/25-minute window, depending on the weather (a cold battery charges slower). The rationale is that while a car is charging, the owner will have the opportunity to do some shopping or check out a restaurant. Electric cars on the market right now take roughly eight or more hours to charge from a typical home garage, though it costs less to charge from home.
According to one study by the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), an electric vehicle’s battery can deteriorate faster if Level 3 stations are used as the primary power source, but that is generally not the case. Level 3 stations are identifiable to electric car owners through apps. There are currently around a dozen Level 3 stations in Michigan. The average electric car owner spends $3 to $4 to charge a vehicle at a station at a given time.