The town of New Canaan is gearing up to add electric vehicles to its fleet as part of its effort to achieve silver accreditation in the Sustainable CT program, which offers recognition and grants to towns that engage in a range of sustainability initiatives that meet state standards.
On Thursday, Public Works Director Tiger Mann presented an update to the Conservation Commission on the town’s plan to start replacing some if its municipal vehicles with electric vehicles. Although Mann said there is no definitive timetable for converting the town’s fleet, the process would likely begin with the vehicles used by the various land use boards such as the Building, Inland Wetlands, Planning & Zoning and Health departments.
“A majority of our fleet is either emergency vehicles for police and fire—or for public works,” Mann said during the meeting, held via videoconference. “We are looking to turnover our land use departments to electric vehicles, first.”
Mann said last year the town submitted a proposal for a mitigation in air quality grant from the Western Connecticut Council of Governments to switch four land use department vehicles to electric, but the Department of Transportation denied the application. “We were looking at converting four vehicles and adding six charging stations,” he said, adding that the goal is still in place despite the DOTs denial.
“As we turn over our fleet, we will be specifically looking to change over those vehicles,” he said. “And then we’ll be looking at others. We don’t know yet if [electric vehicles] will be suitable for the police. I know other towns have started to do that—and our police department is looking at that.”
As far as converting public works vehicles goes, Mann said there is a concern for “power issues.”
“There is a question as to how well [electric vehicles] will work for us,” he said. “There is a question as to whether they will work when we need them to work—and how long they will work for.”
Conservation Commission Chairman Chris Schipper said he liked the idea of having the Parks and other land use departments using electric vehicles. “It’s highly visible – and it’s a leadership opportunity,” he said.
Mann also provided the commission with an update on the town’s plan to further expand the number of public electric vehicle charging stations that are available. He said the special committee assigned to this task—including members of the Parking Commission and Planning & Zoning Commission—is looking to add charging stations at a number of locations, including Morse Court, the Town Hall parking lot, Park Street and at some of the schools, “where teachers are commuting from surrounding communities.”
Mann said the town has the option of either buying the charging stations or leasing them.
“There’s the outright purchase—where we buy the unit and supply the electricity to whoever is using it,” he said. “Or, we could buy the unit and have it metered—and charge a different rate based on who you are and how long you are going to be there.
“I could charge a rate for charging a municipal vehicle versus a private vehicle, things of that nature,” Mann added. “And then there is the lease model, where the supplier would lease the parking space from us, and charge the user.”
Mann said with the lease model, a charging station can be set so that a user “gets charged extra if they stay too long.”
“With that model, they’re looking to get you out so they can get the next person in,” he said.
“We are analyzing each option to see what works best for us. We also need to decide what our overall philosophy should be. Are we [installing charging stations] to make money, or we are providing charging stations so people who visit New Canaan can get back home?”
New Canaan—which only has one charging station at Morse Court and three at Karl Chevrolet (that are for evening and weekend use)—has talked about creating more of the stations for years. In May, the Parking Commission made a recommendation that the town install a second electric vehicle charging station at Morse Court and at least one more in the Town Hall lot.
Concerned that New Canaan is lagging behind other towns, the Parking Commission also recommended that town’s zoning regulations be updated to require developers building multi-unit housing to set aside a percentage of attendant spaces for electric vehicles, with charging units provided.
Mann also provided an update on the town’s plan to bring more solar power to municipal buildings.
“We are looking at the high school – and we are looking at the Playhouse, which would hopefully feed the Town Hall Annex and the waste water treatment facility building,” Mann said. “We have one [solar array] at the highway garage, but not the wastewater plant. We are also considering at a [solar panel] canopy at Lapham, to see if it would be more cost effective.”
Other sustainable projects discussed by the commission included the New Canaan River Water Testing program currently being conducted by HarborWatch and a team of students from New Canaan High School; the town’s Native Tree Planting Program (which recently received a grant of $7,500); the Food Scraps Recycling Program; and the Transfer Station 2040 Master Plan (including the Swap Shop proposal).
Last year, New Canaan achieved bronze status in the Sustainable CT program, earning a total of 220 points for a wide range of initiatives.