EV chargers installed on Mass Pike

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Turning off the old chargers meant that for the past year there was no place for non-Tesla EV drivers to recharge on one of the state’s most popular highways without exiting and finding private stations a few miles off turnpike exits, such as in Chicopee and Auburn. Those stations finally will be able to put signs with their logos along the highway before exits under federal rules adopted in December.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation, which oversees the highway, said new DC fast chargers went into service at the end of January at rest stops east and westbound in Lee and Charlton, westbound in Framingham, and eastbound in Natick. They replaced six chargers installed at the same locations in 2017 that were bedeviled by reliability problems and finally decommissioned by MassDOT a year ago.
The long, frustrating saga of charging an electric vehicle on the Massachusetts Turnpike has taken a turn for the better with new charging equipment installed at six rest stops.
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Tesla operates large charging stations at both service stops in Charlton. Only Tesla vehicles can use the chargers, although the company has made deals with many rival automakers to open the network to other EVs starting as soon as this month.
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On a cold Thursday morning, Don Hunt, a Rivian driver from Hartford coming to Boston for a family visit, pulled up to use the new chargers in Natick and said he was “thrilled” by the replacements.
“I literally was driving slowly past and expected to see those same old broken stations here,” he said. “This is great.”
Part of MassDOT’s contract with Guardian Energy Management Solutions, which installed the new chargers, requires the company to maintain the equipment for the next three years — hopefully avoiding the frequent breakdowns suffered by the old gear.
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The six new chargers were manufactured by Autel and have a maximum charging rate of 60-kilowatts, adding 150 to 240 miles of range to a typical EV battery in an hour and about the same speed as the old EVgo chargers. Newer EVs such as the Ford F-150 Lightning or Hyundai Ioniq 6 can charge three to five times more quickly.
Still, MassDOT faces pressure on multiple fronts to add more and faster EV chargers on the turnpike and other state highways.
Under the state climate law passed in 2022, MassDOT must “make provision for installing” chargers at all Mass. Pike rest stops by July. That would also include service stops in Ludlow, Blandford, and Westborough that have not previously had charging stations.
And under the federal government’s National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program, the state is getting $60 million to build stations with at least four chargers with speeds of at least 150 kilowatts every 50 miles on all major highways. The highway agency is in the process of selecting a handful of contractors to install chargers under the program but has yet to select sites or put specific installations out for bid.
But the Turnpike rest stops likely won’t be eligible for NEVI funds, because the highway was built before the federal interstate system and is exempt from some of its requirements (such as a ban on commercial services at rest stops). Officials at MassDOT have said that they want to add more chargers on the Pike but may wait for another two years when the contract for managing the rest stops comes up for rebidding.
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“While we cannot use NEVI funds for the Mass Pike there is every intention to include the Pike in our statewide charging infrastructure plan,” the agency said in a statement to the Globe.
Aaron Pressman can be reached at aaron.pressman@globe.com. Follow him @ampressman.

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