The Boston campus is abuzz with new electric car charging stations

electric vehicle getting charged
Twenty new electric car charging stations on the Boston campus went live this week, for a total of 34. Satellite campuses throughout Massachusetts are next on the list to get charging stations. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

With seemingly no end in sight to rising gas prices, and electric cars getting a second or even third look by consumers, the Wall Street Journal recently asked: What does it cost to “fill up” an electric vehicle?

It’s complicated. It depends on a variety of factors, including where in the United States someone lives and the cost of using charging stations. But at Northeastern, which recently installed new electric vehicle chargers on the Boston campus, the cost of “filling up” is zero. As in free.

Twenty newly added stations in the Columbus Avenue and Renaissance Park parking garages went live this week after passing state inspections, and are available to anyone―students, faculty, staff, and visitors alike, at no “charge.”

All told, the university now has 34 stations on the Boston campus, with plans to install more on its other Massachusetts campuses―Burlington, Nahant, and Dedham.

The new charging stations are in the Columbus Avenue and Renaissance Park parking garages, and are free to use by anyone. Photos by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

“This was a huge get for the university,” Mark Bates, an energy analyst in Northeastern’s facilities department, says of the new stations. Northeastern got them practically for free using incentives from Eversource, New England’s largest energy provider.

It takes several hours to charge a completely drained battery, so in theory a student or employee could park in the morning and have a juiced up vehicle by the close of day, Bates predicts. Northeastern won’t pay a dime for the charging stations’ electricity; utility costs are covered by a third-party vendor as part of the contract to support additional stations.

The added charging stations come as a recent poll shows a majority of Massachusetts residents plan to buy an electric vehicle in the next five years. Battery life and vehicle range are among the most common concerns for car shoppers, the study found, making improved technology and more charging stations essential.

Electric vehicle maker and Tesla rival Rivian debuted as a publicly traded company in recent days, and saw its stock price more than double, valuing the Amazon-backed company ahead of Volkswagen and behind Toyota and Tesla.

Northeastern is working to mitigate its impact on the environment from fossil fuels through a number of measures, such as the planned electrification of its fleet of almost 140 gas-powered vehicles, including pickup trucks and cargo vans. The move is part of the university’s Climate Justice Action Plan, a pledge to further environmental equity on campus.

“Decreasing our carbon footprint and increasing electrification on campus is part of our movement away from fossil fuels,” says Maria Cimilluca, vice president of facilities management.

A massive lighting upgrade project on the Boston campus has so far swapped out thousands of fluorescent bulbs for energy efficient LEDs and the addition of occupancy and daylight-dimming sensors.

The lighting project is projected to have annual savings of $500,000 in avoided energy costs and nearly 700 metric tons of carbon that didn’t make it into the atmosphere, according to Joe Ranahan, director of Northeastern’s energy programs. The savings model is conservative, he adds, “but even at the bottom of the savings scale it’s pretty significant.”

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