Electric vehicle charging station opens up in Millsboro

Chimes, a provider of day, vocational and residential services for people with cognitive disabilities including mental retardation, mental illness, behavior disorders and autism, has now opened an electric vehicle (EV) charging station at its Millsboro location.

“Chimes has made a corporate-wide effort toward clean energy... This goes back almost nine, 10 years ago. Chimes D.C. started cleaning the headquarters of the EPA, and they encouraged us to use gentler chemicals,” explained Chimes President and CEO Marty Lampner.

“Over time, we’ve expanded that,” he noted. “In our headquarters today, about three quarters of our electricity comes from solar power. We have hopes that in the future we will be able to do something like that in the Millsboro site.”

This is the first EV charging station in Sussex County, and according to Chimes, the first station at a public facility that is not located at a car dealership.

“We’re adding more hybrid and electric vehicles to our fleet,” said Lampner of the Millsboro site. “We want to encourage others to do so as well, so we thought a charging station was a good first step, if you will.

“We thought that this was a likelihood, that there would be one stationed at that location in the not too distance future. Therefore, having the ability to charge our own vehicles, and by the same token, to help out whenever any visitor comes through, is a plus.”

Lampner said that the charging station runs on a sophisticated system that can detect hazardous situations and also when vehicles need to be serviced.

“The charging station is connected to the building’s power supply and draws a 240-volt current, which makes it more efficient for charging vehicles than something powered by a house current, the traditional 120,” he explained. “It’s got a fairly sophisticated system. It detects both cars and itself.

“As you can imagine,” Lampner noted, “electricity when it gets wet can be dangerous, and the system is capable of detecting small shorts and would shut itself down. It also monitors how fast the vehicle is charging, and if it senses that there is a problem it will send a signal to the central office that can then contact the owner of the vehicle, to let them know there might be a problem with their vehicle.”

He noted that using the charging station is as easy as pumping gas, if not easier.

I personally drive a Chevy Volt, and I’ve tested it. I know it works,” said Lampner. “From an operational standpoint, a driver coming up, if they’re a member of Blink, they have a little plastic card, like an ATM card almost, that you basically put on the machine. It will recognize you, and that will turn it on and make it available to use. There’s a cord that plugs into the side of the car, and beyond that everything is automatic. And when the car is charged, it shuts off the station.”

Currently, there is no monetary charge for those who wish to charge their vehicle using Chimes’ station.

“In the beginning, there will not be [a charge],” Lampner explained. “We will be working with a company named Blink that has a network of these chargers throughout the country. In some point in the future there may be a charge. We don’t know a specific number at this time, but I’ve heard as little as a dollar an hour,” he said.

“For those who do not have a card,” he noted, “our front desk will have one so we can help people who don’t necessarily routinely use the chargers but do have a car that needs one.”

According to Lampner, time spent at the charging station can run as little as 15 minutes to more than two hours.

“It varies by two things: how close to zero the vehicle is when you charge it… In that way it’s similar to a car. How much electricity you’re able to take onboard is a function of how low the battery is,” he said.

“In my personal car, if it’s completely empty, it’s going to take about two and a half hours to charge. If it’s something less than that, it’s going to be maybe 15 or 20 minutes. My trip to work each morning — there happens to be a charger here at the office — it takes about 35 minutes to replace what I used in the morning.”

Lampner said that Chimes believes that being energy-conscious is important for the country, as well as a smart economic choice, and it helps the organization distinguish itself from others.

“It’s clearly in the best interest of the country at large that we become more energy-independent,” he said. “One way to do that is to use less power, or to use more clean power that can easily be generated more efficiently. We feel this is something we can give back.

“Second, it makes good economic sense. Going to solar power here at our headquarters and upgrading the insulation, and doing weatherization of various kinds, has saved the company over $100,000 in energy costs. That represents the ability to pay our staff a little bit better and hire more people. It’s a real plus. I guess we can say it’s good business in a sense, if nothing else.

“Third — and I almost hesitate to say this at times — we also think, in a world where there’s little to differentiate people, we hope this makes us a little bit more different than everybody else, and makes people take notice of the work that we and the people we serve do in our communities.”

Lampner added that he is excited to have the EV charging center open in Millsboro. He said he hopes it will help people better serve the environment and community.

“We’re excited about the new center opening in Millsboro, and we hope that people in the community will be able to avail themselves of the charger and also come to know who we are a little bit better. We’ve been a part of Millsboro for almost eight years, but most people didn’t know,” said Lampner.

“We’re hoping the new site on 113 will make people a little more aware that we’re here. And we’re looking forward to our expanded presence in the community.”

For more information on Chimes, visit www.chimes.org. The Chimes Millsboro Vocational Center is located at 26582 John J. Williams Highway (Route 113), in Millsboro.