Cronk: “Gas stations of the future”

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Western is now the proud location of eight top-of-the-line electric car chargers, thanks to the perfect combination of hard work and sheer luck.

Funding for the charging stations began as a micro-grant provided to Western by KCPL.

Brian Cronk, chair of the psychology department and electric car owner, proposed the original micro-grant to KCPL in Aug. 2014.

“[The chargers] would be really good for students from Kansas City who are commuting… or if you have a student who has an electric car and lives on campus, they have nowhere to charge it,” Cronk said.

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KCPL covered the nearly $150,000 cost to install eight top-of-the-line stations on campus.

The stations have received criticism because of their perceived lacking use. However, Cronk reasons that the stations are similar to programs that most institutions already follow.

“We don’t have a million people who are in wheelchairs either, but you’ve got to have at least one handicap parking spot,” Cronk points out.

After filing the micro-grant, Cronk handed the program off to the administration… or at least he thought that he did.

Unknown to Cronk at the time, the Physical Plant Director, Jerry Gentry, was already working with KCPL to construct charging stations on campus.

“I worked with Boehringer Ingelheim before [Western] and over there, I was working with KCPL to install electric car charging stations on their campus,” Gentry explains. “So when I came over here, I thought, ‘Well, heck, this would be a good candidate as well.’”

Gentry contacted his liaison at KCPL with the idea and was met with support for the project.

As the concept developed, Gentry discovered that he was not the only one on campus pushing for the stations.

“In that process, I heard that Dr. Cronk had already applied for a grant, so we had that money sitting there,” Cronk said.

But, the $3,000 from the initial micro-grant was barely going to be enough to cover startup costs.

Luckily, there was a third actor pushing for the cars at the same time: KCPL itself.

As part of a larger initiative to increase the prevalence of electric cars, KCPL has been providing funding for electric car charging stations to businesses and organizations within their coverage area. KCPL plans to have more charging stations per capita than any other area covered by energy stations.

The company provided nearly $150,000 for the installation and initial operation, which meant that the stations came at no cost to the university.

The installation may be complete, but the project still has room to expand.

Currently, the Cronk’s original micro-grant is funding the cost for use of the stations; but, that will change in the coming years.

“[KCPL] will install card-swipe credit card readers, so everyone who pulls up will… pay for their own charge time,” Gentry details. “A two and a half hour charge usually equates out to less than $2.”

Though that phase of the project is more than a year down the road, future-minded people like Cronk are ready for it.

“One day, electric cars will be more prevalent than gasoline cars,” Cronk predicts. “Electric car charging stations are the gas stations of the future.”


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