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'We’re saving the planet': Sumter residents now considering electric vehicles thanks to new stations that make charging more accessible

Duke Energy and Black River Electric Cooperative both have pilot programs to study usage of electric vehicle charging stations. Now, Sumter residents have options.

SUMTER, S.C. — Electric vehicle owners can now charge up throughout Sumter. A new station is being installed in the downtown area, which is helping increase accessibility throughout the county. 

"I have been driving hybrids exclusively since about 2002," Sumter resident Dennis Kern says. "It’s a good thing. We’re saving the planet."

Kern tells me electric vehicles are the way to do that. And now, that’s becoming easier in Sumter with new charging stations. So far, 17 stations have been installed throughout the county over the last year. Before that, James Moye with Black River Electric Cooperative says there were none in Sumter.

"What we were hearing is people that own electric vehicles, they were having trouble finding somewhere to charge their vehicles here locally," Moye explains. "And of course also hearing that manufacturers are going to increase the manufacturing of electric vehicles, we figured we needed to make sure that we’ve got something out here ready for that and we need to be able to study the impact it would have on the electric system. Also study the cost and what kind of maintenance would be involved."

The charging stations are located at restaurants and hotels. Over the past 11 months, they’ve seen 550 charges.

"We were not real sure of what to expect but we didn’t expect to have that many," Moye shares.

Now, Duke Energy is helping increase accessibility to charging through its park and plug pilot program. It’s installing 60 fast chargers at 30 sites across South Carolina. The one in Sumter will be the 13th, encouraging more people like kern to have confidence in electric vehicles.

"I haven’t trusted pure electric up to now because charging stations are relatively rare and the range on electric vehicles is relatively short," Kern shares. "I’m now convinced that there are enough charging stations like this one that I can go on a long trip with my all electric vehicle."

While adding stations to the county is helping with accessibility, Moye says it’s also encouraging people to visit Sumter.

"The way we saw it, if we could attract people to come here, charge their vehicle, then they would stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants, and hopefully do some shopping here in Sumter while their vehicle is charging," Moye says. 

He explains it’s working both for people on road trips who might stop in Sumter to charge up and for military personnel at Shaw Air Force Base, who Moye says have been using the stations while on temporary duty. 

According to Duke Energy, the rest of the charging stations throughout the state are expected to be finished before the end of this year.

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