Recently, Belfast installed four electric car charging stations at the Bridge Street parking lot and it is the direction the city should continue to take with charging stations moving forward.

There seem to be increasing numbers of electric or hybrid vehicles in Belfast nowadays. The two free stations made sense when they were installed several years ago in the Beaver Street parking lot to encourage electric/hybrid ownership, but now that the area has seen an increase in these vehicles, it is time to move to a paid model.

Paid car charging stations force electric car owners to be more mindful of how long their vehicles are plugged in, which allows more time for other electric vehicle owners to get a charge. Some discourteous electric vehicle owners will keep their cars plugged in for a prolonged period of time, even after they have reached a full charge, with little consequences except an occasional $15 parking ticket.

Installing paid charging stations should also appeal to people who do not own electric cars and are frustrated about the city’s giving away a taxpayer-funded benefit to only one type of car owner. They also might support more charging infrastructure in the city if they think those projects will pay for themselves.

Paid charging stations could also offer a modest revenue stream that could accrue funds over time — perhaps enough to support more charging stations or help fund other “green” projects in the city. Officials might even explore the idea of working with a private company to fund more charging stations and operate those stations in public parking lots through a contract with the city.

While the Bridge Street charging stations are in a good place to accommodate tourists and visitors, the city should work toward installing more car chargers in other public parking lots downtown, closer to businesses for workers. Officials should also consider converting the current chargers on Beaver Street to a paid model, if possible.

Councilors have maintained a forward-thinking attitude toward sustainability, particularly in addressing climate change issues expected to impact the city. It is good to see them initiating projects like the new charging stations, but the city needs more electric vehicle charging infrastructure.