ALAMANCE COUNTY—Charging stations for plug-in electric cars at four interstate rest areas in North Carolina are no more.
The State Department of Transportation removed the stations from rest stops in Alamance and Johnston counties. The pilot project's longevity and future prospects for the stations at state rest stops were cut short by state and federal regulations.
NCDOT boasted "history was made today," when it installed the four charging stations in January 2012. It unceremoniously removed them a little over a year later.
"It was a pilot program to see how viable a rest area would be to have a charging station," said NCDOT division operations engineer Pat Wilson. "Unfortunately we were asked to remove them earlier this year.
A $247,000 federal grant through the NC Department of Commerce paid for the charging stations and their installation. Just 146 drivers plugged in to the four stations for a total of 117 hours at a cost to the state of only $44.69.
"Most people with the range of the vehicle, they know what they're going to be driving the car to and unless there was an emergency situation came up they weren't really using it that often," said Ricky Duncan, Leaf specialist at Carolina Nissan in Burlington.
House Bill 177 helped lead to the demise of the program. The General Assembly approved the bill last June.
"Mandating that DOT come up with a way to be able to charge for the power," Wilson said.
NCDOT went to work on the directive but it was stymied by a federal law that governs sales at North Carolina rest areas.
"That prohibits DOT from selling anything at the rest area other than the vending machines," said Wilson. "The deadline was March 1, 2013 and we didn't come up with a plan to be able to recoup the cost on that."
Some drivers said the federal regulation made no sense.
"I think you should be able to just swipe your credit card in the charging station and pay for it that way," said Brandon Parsons.
Wilson said NCDOT hoped to plug in the charging stations again, but the inability to charge for the electricity remains a road block.