Manitou Art Center Builds Electric Car Charging Station

Kaitlyn Cashdollar, Senior Reporter

In January, the MAC installed a electric car charging station. One obstacle was the enormous brick walls at the Manitou Art Center (MAC). They are particularly thick, so it took six hours to drill through them. Once the walls were taken care of, however, it only took another three hours to install. Natalie Johnson, the MAC executive director, said that most electricians have experience with installing the chargers now, since they’re so popular. The 515 building was originally a garage, so all of the infrastructures were in place to support the chargers.

The chargers act as extension cords and charge a car just like you would a cell phone. Johnson describes them as “elaborate electrical outlets”. The MAC has both a Tesla charger and a Universal charger, so anyone with a Tesla, Leaf, Spark, Volt, etc. can use it 24/7. It typically takes two hours to charge the vehicles.

The MAC was originally offered two grants, one from Tesla Motors that covered 100% of the installation and purchase, and one from the State of Colorado that didn’t cover as much. The grant came to about $7,500 in the end, which including the cost of the devices and installation. It was originally Johnson who was interested in having the station. Once she announced that the MAC got a grant from the state, Dennis Korth, John Duprey, and David McNeil stepped up to help her. It was Duprey who reached out to Tesla and got the full grant. “I have been tracking electric vehicle charger stations for years and jumped on the opportunity. I believe that the MAC has the ability to challenge our community, inventors and artists to try new things,” said Johnson.

Dennis Korth, a former teacher here at Manitou, maintains and drives Sparky, MSHS’s electric car. The two of them have made appearances in parades and in Volkswagen events for 22 years now. Former and currents students both love the two of them. Korth taught wood-shop for 31 years and now carries on Sparky’s tradition every year.

“In 94, I saw three electric cars go up (Pikes Peak), and they were kind of Volkswagen based vehicles, so I thought, ‘I can do that.’ I did some research, and that was the year I got inspired. Since I was the wood-shop teacher, which is industrial arts, that includes wood, metal, welding, automotive, electricity, the whole enchilada, I had a little bit of knowledge of what was needed,” Korth said.

Korth was to say the least, excited when he found out about the MAC’s new charging station. “I was up talking to the technology teacher up by the wood-shop, and he said, ‘Did you hear the MAC has a grant to build a charging station for electric cars?’ and I went, ‘What?’ I’m kind of electric vehicle excitable, so after I got done talking with him I ran down and was talking with Natalie (Johnson) who wrote the grant, and got the money for it.

“It was kind of fun because I was talking to her and she goes, ‘I got the money, but I know nothing about charging stations,’ and I said, ‘Well, just because I built an electric car doesn’t mean I know anything either, but I know people.’ So I got two guys that know why electric vehicles work, and we had a meeting, and she was all excited. As a matter of fact, one of the guys, John (Duprey), ended up talking to Tesla, who is an electric car manufacturer, and they got Tesla to donate a charging station, and money to have it installed,” Korth said.

Korth used to use Sparky as his primary car, but now he just uses it in the parade. That’s also when he uses the MAC’s charging station. However, he doesn’t need to use that station. When he was first built, charging stations like the one at the MAC didn’t exist. He just uses a regular plug and extension cord.

More and more people are starting to get electric cars, which is really helping the environment. Many students here at Manitou are getting their license, and cars as well. Maybe some of Manitou’s students can put the MAC’s charging station to good use. “Electric cars are getting to be really popular. Tesla has a $35,000 electric car coming on the market, I think in a couple of years… Whether or not electric cars are the answer, I think at the moment they are,” Korth said.