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Vienna Town Council Hears Pitch for Electric Vehicle Chargers

Electrify America has its sights set on the Town of Vienna as it embarks on ambitious plans to expand its national network of electric vehicle charging stations.

Specifically, the Reston-based subsidiary of Volkswagen would like to install a station with three or four chargers in the parking lot next to the Sunoco gas station at the intersection of Maple Avenue and Center Street.

After meeting with town staff on Sept. 4, Electrify America representatives presented the proposal to the Vienna Town Council during its conference session last night (Monday).

“We think it’s a good location, because while people are charging, they can walk to different shops,” Electrify America Mid-Atlantic Project Manager Ian Hostetler told the council. “We just think it’s a great amenity that would benefit the town and its citizens, and we’re hopeful we can make this work.”

Electrify America currently operates more than 2,000 electric vehicle chargers at 556 different sites in the U.S., including one in the parking garage of the Tysons West shopping center off of Route 7.

The company announced in August that it is working with Tysons Corner Center to bring a station to the mall sometime early this year as part of its plans to add 800 sites by the end of 2021.

This is not the first time that Electrify America has pursued projects in the Town of Vienna, which got its first electric vehicle chargers last year when Wawa opened with a Tesla station.

According to Hostetler, the company had a deal to bring electric vehicle chargers to the Bank of America lot at 235 Maple Avenue, but the town determined that, as an automobile service station, the utility is not permitted by the site’s “special commercial” zoning. A separate plan for chargers at Maple Avenue Shopping Center stalled when negotiations with property owner Washington Realty reached an impasse.

The parking lot now being eyed by Electrify America is owned by the Town of Vienna, but the company would have to clear a few hurdles to turn its pitch into a reality.

Hostetler says the company typically seeks 10-year leases to recoup its investment, since it covers the construction, operation, maintenance, and electricity costs of its chargers. Virginia law requires a public hearing and advertisement for any property leases that would last five or more years, according to Vienna Town Attorney Steve Briglia.

“In the nature of a franchise, you have to make it available to other providers,” Briglia said.

While Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert said the offer sounds like “an exciting opportunity,” several councilmembers raised concerns about giving up valuable parking spaces in order to accommodate the chargers and accompanying equipment.

In addition to needing a space for each charger, the site would also have to be equipped with a switch gear, dedicated power units for each dispenser, battery storage, and a utility transformer. As a result, the facility could potentially require as many as seven total parking spaces, along with the possible removal of a tree.

Andrew Dick, a government affairs and public policy manager for Electrify America, admitted that the amount of space needed for one of the company’s charging stations isn’t easy to come by in Vienna.

“If we give that [parking] over to a private entity, there may be some upset people in town, because parking’s always been an issue here, and I think it would just make it a little worse,” Councilmember Nisha Patel said. “Unless they have an electric car, then they’d be psyched.”

Overall, the council seemed intrigued by the idea of expanding Vienna’s electric vehicle infrastructure but not ready to commit to any specific projects yet.

“Electric vehicles are definitely the way of the future, but we have to look at all options,” Councilmember Howard Springsteen said.

Images via Electrify America, Google Maps

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