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University Adds Electric Vehicle Charging Station to Central Grounds Garage

Electric automobile drivers visiting the University of Virginia will now be able to recharge their vehicles in the University’s Central Grounds Parking Garage.

The University’s Department of Parking & Transportation and Facilities Management, working with Kyle Smalkowski, a fourth-year student in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, has installed a “Level Two” electric vehicle charging station in the parking facility. The station was funded by grants from the Parents Committee and Student Council’s Green Initiatives Funding Tomorrow program.

The station’s unveiling is scheduled for Friday at 10 a.m. on the second level of the garage. Speakers will include Allen Groves, associate vice president and dean of students; Michael Phillips, program coordinator of Virginia Clean Cities, a regional nonprofit agency; and Smalkowski. Groves is slated to make the first official plug-in.

The charging station, located next to the elevators in the garage, will be available for University visitors with electric vehicles. The station will be able to charge one electric vehicle at a time and each customer is limited to four hours.

“A Level Two station can fully charge a dead battery in about eight hours, depending on the vehicle, but the majority of users will not be arriving on an empty battery,” said Jonathan Monceaux, a transportation demand management professional with Parking & Transportation. “Users will pay the regular hourly parking fees for parking in the garage, and be charged an additional $2 flat fee for up to four hours for ongoing maintenance of the station.”

The station, which will draw approximately 7.2 kilowatts of electricity from the garage’s grid, will be offset in part by a solar panel array that Facilities Management installed on the roof. The solar array will feed electricity into the garage’s electric grid. 

“The goal of my work is to understand the implications of electric vehicle charging station infrastructure on the adoption of electric vehicles,” said Smalkowski, who is majoring in chemical engineering with a materials science minor. “I have been working with electric vehicles for all four years at U.Va., and I chose this topic because of my passion for the subject.”

Smalkowski, of Richmond, credits the idea to his involvement with the student group RideForward, which “aims to design sustainable transportation technologies that reduce our carbon footprint, and to learn how to make these technologies more accessible to the public. “

“We focus on gasoline-to-electric vehicle conversions, and so we have accumulated a number of all-electric vehicles, but realized that there is no public place to charge them,” said Smalkowski, the group’s president. “I then founded a new branch of RideForward called START (the Sustainable Transportation Advancement & Research Team) to tackle the lack of electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the community.”

Smalkowski worked with Christian Speck, a fourth-year electrical engineering major, and Olivia Jeffers, a fourth-year civil engineering major and a past president of RideForward.

Philips said there has been an uptick in electric vehicle use in the state.

“As of this month, the commonwealth of Virginia currently has 2,006 registered electric vehicles,” Phillips said. “This is a substantial increase of around 700 percent from just one year ago.”

Smalkowski said the charging station’s demand will be monitored.

“The goal of the project is to make accessible to the public a zero-emissions, solar-powered source of energy for transportation, which currently doesn't exist in Charlottesville or even most of Virginia,” Smalkowski said.

The project received a $2,000 grant from the U.Va. Parents Committee, which was used for the purchase of the solar array, and an $8,700 grant from the Green Initiatives Funding Tomorrow fund, which was put toward the charging station. RideForward also donated $500 toward the project. The purchase and installation of the charging station cost approximately $5,800.

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