NORWAY — The town is offering free car fuel — minus the gas.

In a growing trend of municipalities and businesses building an infrastructure for electric cars, Norway has installed a charging station for drivers looking to power up.

The station, which delivers about the same amount of voltage a household stove or dryer consumes, was donated to the Center for an Ecology-Based Economy by Revision Energy, a Portland-based solar energy company.

Last month, it was installed behind the information kiosk on Main Street, with the aim of powering a range of popular electric car models now widely available to the consumer.

In July, CEBE member Fred Garbo convinced selectmen to test out the idea. In Garbo’s view, the station will allow electric car owners from Southern Maine to make the 45-mile trip from Portland.

The Nissan Leaf, a popular model, has a driving range of about 80 miles. Garbo reasons shoppers waiting for their car to charge will give downtown a boost.

“I think it will be awesome when people see that there’s a small town offering free energy,” Garbo said.

Unlike the southern half of the state, where the majority of electric cars now roam city streets, Garbo said electric cars have yet to make their presence felt in Western Maine.

Which isn’t to say they’re not there; Garbo, who drives a Nissan Leaf, predicts that demand for the cars will grow as people see their benefits.

“I have very little maintenance costs; just tires, brakes and windshield wipers.”

Garbo said it’s hard to estimate the number of people who have used it because the station doesn’t have a visible meter, though in the past few weeks he’s seen cars there.

The charging station is the second of its kind in Oxford County, part a growing trend of local towns and businesses across the state to encourage an exhaust-free, zero-emission car.

According to the website Plugshare, whose website and mobile application keeps on-the-go travelers updated with the location of charging stations, there are now over 50 business, municipal and private chargers in Maine.

“The incentive is to draw people to Norway,” CEBE Executive Director Scott Vlaun said.

Vlaun estimated that Norway’s station is the first run by a municipality in the state, a feat that puts Norway “on the map.”

There’s no way to guess how much the station has been used to date, as electricity bills haven’t been compared. Norway will provide users with electricity, though Town Manager David Holt said he will keep an eye on the bills.

If the town decides the project proves too costly, CEBE will install solar panels, Vlaun said.


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