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South Charleston charges ahead with plan to draw electric vehicle drivers

CHRIS DORST | Gazette-Mail photos
Larry Kopelman plugs one of the city of South Charleston’s new electric vehicle chargers into the adapter for his 2013 Tesla.
Kopelman (right) talks with South Charleston Mayor Frank Mullens as he charges his car at one of the charging stations recently installed by the city.
Green stripes and a sign guide visitors to one of the two electric car chargers installed at a parking area near the Creel Mound in South Charleston.

The city of South Charleston has plugged into a new, environmentally friendly way to lure travelers off Interstate 64 to spend time dining or shopping in the city’s downtown district.

Two new electric car chargers were recently installed on either side of the city’s iconic Creel Mound — one next to the Vietnam Memorial just east of the mound, and the other on Oakes Avenue, in the parking area on the west side of the 2,000-year-old Adena monument. The Level 2 electric vehicle (EV) chargers, open to the public free of charge, are believed to be the first in the state to have been installed by a municipality.

“Since our charging stations show up on electric car owners’ apps, it makes us a destination point,” said Mayor Frank Mullens, as he watched Charleston lawyer Larry Kopelman top off the battery of his Tesla Model S at one of the new chargers.

“The Level 2 charger is good for any electric car adapter,” Kopelman said, after plugging in. “I think having the chargers here shows that South Charleston is a welcoming place and is doing something to help the environment. It’s also nice to have a reserved parking spot when you visit here.”

Within walking distance of the chargers are restaurants featuring Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican and Middle Eastern cuisine, as well as American fare, not to mention the Creel Mound and the South Charleston Interpretive Center which tells its story, as well as that of the Midland Trail, through exhibits, photos, maps and artifacts.

Mullens said the units were bought through a state contract for chargers, which have been installed at nine of 10 West Virginia state parks with lodges, with the 10th park, North Bend, expected to have its chargers installed by the end of this year. Funding was provided through the city’s economic development authority, and installation was done by the city’s public works staff.

South Charleston has partnered with the Wingate motel to install two free public charges there, and plans to install other chargers in partnership with Thomas Memorial Hospital and businesses along Corridor G/U.S. 119, Mullens said.

Electric car sales in the U.S. have outpaced 2016 sales every month so far this year, according to InsideEVs.com, with more than 120,000 sales recorded through the end of August.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.

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