Electric car fast chargers coming to Trumbull mall parking lot

TRUMBULL — The Westfield Trumbull mall will become a little bit greener, both figuratively and literally, with the approval of a four-bay Level 3 electric vehicle charging station, unanimously approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission last week.

Among other things, the approval is conditional on the applicant, Electrify America, planting trees and shrubs around the chargers to enhance the aesthetics at the site.

The company had made its initial presentation to the board in November, but the motion was continued to the board’s December meeting after members balked at the visual impact the of the power station, which is planned for a parking lot island near the Ring Road near the Main Street entrance.

Commission Chairman Fred Garrity called the revised plan “much better than the other one” and thanked company representative Marisa Gedeon for making the revisions. Among the changes were replacing the two double-sided chargers with four individual units, which reduced the station’s overall size. The revised plan also calls for the transformer to be in a less prominent location, reducing the visual impact for mall visitors as they enter the parking area.

Discussion on the project centered mostly on potential impact to the mall’s neighbors. Commissioner Anthony Chory’s question about noise began a lengthy discussion. Gedeon said sound would not be an issue. The sound generated would be like a low hum or vibration when in operation, she said.

“The sound data says that it would be lower than a normal conversation,” she said. “As with all electric and power equipment, there will be some noise, but not like a motor running.”

The transformer also would have fencing and landscaping around it, further reducing sound.

In response to a question from town planner Rob Librandi, Gedeon said the charging station would remain functional during a power outage, and would not require the use of gas or diesel generators.

“It actually has lithium batteries to support (operation) for a short time,” she said.

Commissioner David Preusch said he believed sound would not be a problem.

“You’re talking about noise on top of what’s already going on at the mall, with deliveries and all that,” he said.

Garrity agreed, pointing out the Trumbull police already enforce a noise ordinance.

According to the town’s municipal noise ordinance, a commercial zone may not generate sound levels higher than 55 decibels during the day, and 45 decibels at night, as measured at the property line. According to Yale University, normal conversation averages about 60 to 70 decibels, a household refrigerator 55 decibels and ambient noise in a quiet suburban area is about 40 decibels.

“We’re nowhere near that,” Garrity said.

Commissioners also worried about the visual impact for neighbors, and made a series of recommendations for landscaping improvements, including all-season trees and shrubs to conceal the installation. Librandi also suggested using boulders as part of the landscaping to augment the safety bollards and prevent vehicles from hitting the chargers.

The greenery should be kept to a maximum of six feet, Garrity said.

“That’s lower than some SUVs that already park there,” he said.

Typical Level 3 charges like the board approved use a 480-volt direct current (DC) plug and can provide an 80 percent charge in about a half hour. This makes them much faster than other vehicle charging stations. Level 1 chargers typically use normal household current and are placed in the vehicle owner’s home to charge the vehicle overnight. Level 2 chargers, usually installed in homes and public parking areas, use a 240V plug to recharge a vehicle in four to six hours.

The company has a similar installation at Stratford Square shopping center, and another planned at the Ridgeway Shopping Center in Stamford.