PORTLAND — High-speed electric vehicle charging stations have opened at five Hannaford supermarkets in Maine.
The fast chargers can significantly power up an electric car in as little as 20 minutes, compared to the hours it takes at home or at less powerful public chargers. Siting charge kiosks at Hannaford gives customers the option to power up while they buy groceries, said Barry Woods, director of Electric Mobility NE, an electric vehicle advocacy group, at a Friday event to launch the chargers.
“You should see Hannaford as your new corner gas station,” Woods said, at a news conference Friday. “This metal box will help us all charge into the future.”
The stations were installed in a partnership among Hannaford, EVgo, which installs and owns the stations, and Nissan. The automaker produces the Leaf electric vehicle and has been promoting sales by offering free, fast charging for two years to new Leaf owners.
Chargers are located at Hannaford stores in Portland on Forest Avenue, South Portland at the Maine Mall, Topsham, York and Augusta. Hannaford’s corporate headquarters in Scarborough and its store in Camden also have chargers.
The stations are part of an effort to establish faster, more powerful charging stations across the country to serve consumers with electric vehicles, and to encourage others to consider buying the environmentally friendly vehicles. Supermarket locations have been springing up in places like Texas, where Whole Foods established a charging station in Austin in 2010. Kroger, one of the biggest grocery chains in the country, has about 300 charging stations sprinkled throughout locations in California, Oregon, Arizona, Texas and Washington.
At the Hannaford locations, customers can pay for their vehicle’s electricity with a credit card or a monthly EVgo subscription. The stations use both SAE connectors, used by most American and European car models, and CHAdeMO plugs, used by Asian brands. Tesla vehicles will be able to charge at the station using an adapter.
As of November 2015, there were approximately 142 of the most popular electric vehicles, Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S and BMW i-series, registered in Maine, mostly in the southern part of the state.
A full charge will power a new Nissan Leaf about 107 miles, while a Chevy Spark will go about 82 miles and the EV BMW will go about 114 miles. Pricing for a charge varies depending on whether someone is a pay-as-you-go customer, or belongs to a subscription plan.
U.S. Sen. Angus King, speaking at the Friday event, said electric transportation powered by renewable energy is essential to cut greenhouse gas emissions and curb the effect of climate change.
“The point is, we have to do something about this,” King said. “This is the pathway from the new energy future to the consumer.”
Hannaford’s kiosks add to a growing number of fast charging stations in Maine and the U.S. and support the slowly increasing market for electric vehicles. Last year Tesla installed a supercharging station in Augusta and there are dozens of lower powered private charging stations across the state.
The high-speed chargers could form the backbone for planned electric vehicle corridors linking Maine and Quebec, Wood said. Making fast chargers available like gas stations could also overcome the “range anxiety” that prevents people from buying electric vehicles because they worry they won’t travel as far as they want. Those worries are mostly a perception issue, Woods said. As electric vehicle technology gets better, ranges and battery life will be extended significantly, he added.
“The fast chargers show vehicles can be charged much more quickly and maintain a functionality and distance that is a lot more what the average American is used to,” Woods said.
“It gets people to think and talk about it, and while they are doing that, the vehicles are rapidly improving.”