The New Street parking garage, which opened in November 2017, has an electric vehicle charging station on the ground floor. There is also a charging station in the Alumni Memorial Parking Pavilion. (Sara Boyd/B&W Staff)

Lehigh, Bethlehem unveil new electric vehicle charging station

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As Lehigh continues to expand into South Bethlehem, the university has worked with the city to add an electric vehicle charging station in the New Street parking garage.

The charging station was installed after the Lehigh and Bethlehem police departments collaborated to open a police substation at the same location. 

Michael Colón, a member of the Bethlehem city council, said both Bethlehem and Lehigh recognized a lack of charging stations for those who make long drives in their electric cars. 

Delicia Nahman, Lehigh’s sustainability officer, said she is excited about the charging station because of the accessibility it creates for current or potential electric car owners.

Nahman considers electric cars to be the future of our society because they consume less energy on a per-unit level and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. However, the cars’ environmental efficiency does not make long-distance travel easier, which is why the new charging station can help change this issue.

“One of the nice things about owning an electric car, now, is that there is infrastructure being installed across the United States in the same way that gas stations are being installed,” Nahman said.

Lehigh also installed a charging station in the Alumni Memorial Parking Pavilion in late March. Nahman said the installation generated a positive response from the Lehigh community because a handful of faculty members own or anticipate operating electric vehicles.

According to Lehigh’s Office of Finance and Administration’s website, those who wish to use the charging station in the Alumni Memorial Parking Pavilion must sign up online. Lehigh faculty, staff, students and vendors can use the station for free for the first four hours, and then must pay $2 for every additional hour.

Matthias Falk, a cell biology professor, owns an electric car and is passionate about the growing opportunities for electric car owners to find places to charge their vehicles.

“This will encourage parents of current or potential students to buy an electric car, because it’s always an issue when they have to drive 200 miles or so and need a place to charge their car,” Falk said.  

Lehigh and Bethlehem are not just adding the chargers to fulfill the needs of community members, but to also promote the sustainability that comes along with owning an electric car.

“Lehigh and the city of Bethlehem have a number of shared priorities, and what happened at the New Street garage was a really nice alignment of these priorities,” Nahman said.

Colón said both communities mutually benefit from one another, and Lehigh will benefit from the New Street charging station despite the fact it is not located directly on Lehigh’s campus.

“It’s important that the city as a whole understands that it’s in good faith that Lehigh engages in these endeavors and that the university understands that the city is here to be responsive to the needs of the campus,” Colón said.

In addition to the charging station, Lehigh and the city of Bethlehem are collaborating on several projects to continue merging the communities.

The Gateway at Greenway Park is one example, as Lehigh has moved several offices to the building that will sit alongside new shops and restaurants.

Colón said he hopes Lehigh students will begin to take advantage of the resources the South Side has to offer, especially as Lehigh continues to become a larger part of the area.  

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