FALMOUTH — During his time teaching first grade at Falmouth Elementary School, Josh Olins has made sustainability a priority.
Now he’s been instrumental in bringing an electric vehicle charging station to the school campus off Woodville Road.
The charging station has already seen a lot of use by the school community, but Olins also wants to make sure the wider community knows the station, which is in the elementary school parking lot near the gym, is open to the public.
This is the second electric vehicle charging station in town; the other is at Town Hall. According to Kimberly Darling, Falmouth’s energy and sustainability coordinator, the first station is mostly used to power the town’s own electric vehicle, although it’s also available to the public.
Darling said because the station is not metered, it’s difficult to know how much use it gets from residents charging personal vehicles.
However, she said, “I suspect it gets utilized most often on the weekends, when the office is closed. I think it generally gets a fair amount of use.”
The charging station at the school was paid for through a grant from Emera Maine, Olins said. The grant paid for the charger and installation, so there was no cost to the School Department, he said.
Anyone with questions or who wants to support the School Department’s effort to install more charging stations should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The charging station is only available to one vehicle at a time, but Olins said it services all-electric vehicles and hybrids. He said it takes about two hours to fully charge an EV like a Nissan Leaf, Volkswagen Egolf or Tesla.
“But,” he said, “since most cars arrive with a half charge, it takes less, and of course it shuts off automatically when the car reaches full charge.”
Olins said the School Department wanted to install the station because “administrators and staff understood the value of the highly visible charging station. It says: ‘We support EV’s and want to contribute to their progress by providing a part of the future charging network.'”
Olins is one of two staff members with an electric vehicle, which he calls a “great commuter car.” In addition, he said several other staff members drive hybrids and several families in town also use the station to plug in “mostly after school or during soccer games, etc.”
Olins bought his electric vehicle used and believes in the past 11 months he has saved almost $1,000 in fuel costs driving it back and forth from school to his home in Freeport.
“Charging at home costs about $10 per month and even less at school, because we have access to very cheap electricity rates,” he said.
To help support the school charging station, Olins said, “a few of us gave a voluntary donation to the School Department so that it was clear that the district is not paying for our commute.”
What Olins most appreciates is that while producing electricity still puts carbon dioxide into the air, “it’s still vastly more ecologically sound and efficient to burn gas and oil in a plant than in individual cars.”
“We use much less gas and produce less CO2 that way, and what is burned in a smokestack of a plant is more efficient than (what comes) out of the tailpipe of a car,” he added.
And now that electric vehicles can go farther between charges and are becoming less expensive, Olins hopes more people in the community will invest in one.
What’s also great, Olins said, is that students and adults who see the charging station “ask questions and learn” about the benefits of electric vehicles.
Along with the charging station, Olins said, “We have solar panels on our school roof, as well as a monitor in our lobby that shows how much electricity we have produced and how much CO2 we have saved.”
In addition, he said, some classes have studied electricity production and consumption and have learned from the school’s example, while others are learning about climate change and impact of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
“A real-life example like the (charging station) shows that we can and are making a change,” Olins said.
All four of these cars are charging or waiting their turn to use the electric vehicle charging station at Falmouth Elementary School. From left are a VW EGolf, Toyota Prius Plug-in, Ford Fusion hybrid and a Nissan Leaf.