Cary, NC – Not only are electric cars becoming more common in North Carolina but the infrastructure for them is growing as well, with Duke Energy announcing a plan earlier this year to invest $76 million in charging stations. So, for Cary drivers thinking about getting an electric car, what are some factors to consider?
Cary’s Electric Car Infrastructure
As more people start buying and driving electric cars, more charging stations open up. The Target in Crossroads Shopping Center recently renovated part of its parking lot for several charging stations and various offices and businesses in Cary such as SAS have charging stations for employees.
But while many of these are paid charging stations, the Town of Cary has installed and operates several free ports, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. All of these stations are “Level 2” charging stations, with between 220 and 240 volts. This is contrasted with Level 1 charging at 110 volts, which you would get from plugging a car into an ordinary electrical socket and Level 3 charging at 480 volts (Level 3 charging can typically recharge 80 percent of a car’s battery in half an hour, though this can significantly weaken the battery life).
The most popular and easiest to use of Cary’s free car charging stations is in the Downtown Cary parking deck across from the Herbert C. Young Community Center. The two ports attach and detach without any registration or interaction with WiFi and are easy to spot right at the parking deck’s entrance. Also, with the several hours of charging needed at this station, its Downtown Cary location makes it convenient since it is walkable to not only Town Hall but the rest of downtown. However, one drawback is its convenience and location makes it the most popular spot as well and spots are often occupied.
There is also a charging station downtown at the Cary Arts Center. However, it is linked to GE’s WattStation charging network. Both WattStation’s website and mobile app are poorly designed to the point that they are essentially unusable, making this charging station just as ineffective.
Cary also operates a free charging station with two ports at the Bond Park boathouse. To access this, drivers will need a ChargePoint account but it does not take any money. Also, as a ChargePoint station, it also gives drivers a readout of how long they were charging and how much electricity they used. Because of its location, it is not as walkable as Downtown Cary but this also means it is less used and it is useful for anyone visiting Bond Park and its various trails.
Finally, there is the charging station at Cary’s solid waste treatment facility on James Jackson Avenue. This site is primarily meant for Town of Cary electric vehicles and is typically being used to charge those cars. Also, these lots are specifically off-limits to the public on evenings and weekends. In total, this is not a practical choice for Cary drivers.
When the new parking deck connected to the Cary Regional Library opens, this will offer more charging options as town staff say there will be between 12 and 14 ports.
Other Advice for Electric Drivers
Right now, electric vehicles are undergoing a lot of change and the landscape may be radically different in five years from where it is today, just as five years ago most people may have only associated electric cars with the Tesla, when many car companies now offer electric varieties.
While battery range is still a limitation for many prospective electric car buyers, Cary is nicely situated near several destination centers that are well within range for a typical electric car.
Electric vehicles also require much less maintenance than a traditional fuel car because of the relative simplicity of its engine. Also, because electric vehicles are so new, warranties on these cars are often generous, which is especially helpful given the cost of the battery.
But in a suburban community such as Cary, one thing any driver should consider is the silence of electric vehicles. A pedestrian or a pet can easily not hear a car coming in a tight neighborhood or downtown and if the driver is not aware of this or diligent, it can lead to a serious accident.
Story and photos by Michael Papich.