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Charging stations needed in Savannah if more EV cars are coming

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I have an electric vehicle now where do I charge it?

Electric vehicle owners Andy Resende and Steve Schulte talk about planning trips and charging times.

Richard Burkhart, Savannah Morning News

When Steve Schulte hits the road, the last thing on his mind is figuring out where he is going to charge his Tesla. The vehicle does it for him.

“The Tesla tells us where we can find a charging station,” said Schulte.

Schulte, a wedding reverend in Savannah, purchased the Model S five years ago and said Tesla has grown leaps and bounds in terms of providing charging stations.

“Initially, it was very difficult but now it’s super easy to find,” said Schulte. “When we bought the car, we bought one of the cheapest ones and the most we could go was 230 miles on the charge. That’s still pretty good, especially when you take into consideration that no one actually gets the miles per gallon or the miles per charge that the car says it does.”

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And because Savannah is becoming an “EV friendly” city, Tesla drivers have plenty of options when it comes to charging their vehicles.

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Sean Brandon, the City of Savannah’s director of Mobility and Parking Services, said there are around 30 EV stations in the city that are publicly available on city property. He added the city has been trying to nail down where they should add more charging stations.

“The first EV chargers were in garages,” said Brandon. “We were testing that out to see if there was a demand and that demand has built slowly over time.” Although there are universal chargers, Brandon said Tesla does not operate off a universal charger.

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“What makes this weird is Tesla has its own charging system,” said Brandon. “But as an example, in one garage, we have two Tesla chargers and two universal chargers that will do everything except Tesla.”

The city is discussing how they can provide more charging stations, but finding the right location is tricky. Putting them in garages would make it more accessible for motorists, but Brandon said the garages were not built with the idea of ​​adding chargers in the future.

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“The most obvious place to put chargers in is in garages because we own those, but the capacity of the garage is limited,” said Brandon. “And when they were built, they never contemplated the electrical pole of car charger. Consequently, it is very expensive to bring a garage up to that point. A facility like a garage can easily cost $100,000 to bring it up to the level of being able to accommodate more chargers.”

Tesla’s supercharging stations resemble that of a gas station, some having as many as 12 charging ports. Brandon said it is a sign of how far EVs have come, but it may be a while before Savannah has one with a dozen or more.

“Just like when gas stations were developed, everyone was running around trying to figure out who is going to pay for what and where are they going to go and how it was going to work,” said Brandon.

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“We’re at a similar stage now with electrical vehicles. Are we at the point where we just have to have all electrical chargers? I don’t think so. I mean, I think it’s going to be a few years before people really start seeing that happening.”

Latrice Williams is a general assignment reporter covering Bryan and Effingham County. You can be reached at lwilliams6@gannett.com.

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