BURLINGTON - Tesla, Inc. recently went back in front of the Planning Board for the third time with a minor engineering change application to install electric vehicle charging stations within an existing, underutilized parking area of the Burlington Mall parking lot.

The 12 proposed “Level 3 Fast Charging Stations” would be just for Tesla vehicles, usually taking 30-60 minutes to fully charge an electric vehicle. In addition to the 12 charging stations, the application also calls for the installation of one light pole, three super-charger cabinets, one panel board, and one transformer. The super-charger cabinets convert the alternating current from the power grid to direct the current to charge the batteries of the vehicles.

Tesla adhered to the board’s location suggestions and relocated the proposal from along Burlington Mall Road to the southern side of The Village at Burlington Mall in the former Sears parking lot. The original location on Burlington Mall Road was met with disapproval from the planners, who didn’t like the clear sightline created as a result of the original location. The new location is a more secluded area of the former Sears parking lot along Middlesex Turnpike, but is not the part where snow is stored. The snow storage area of the lot isn’t preferred by the mall because they consider it an area where future development may take place.

“The goals of this new location are to figure out how do we tuck the spaces in the mall landscape? How do we not put the spaces into an area that is not expected to be developed? And how do we not put the spaces in an area that is close enough, but not in prime spaces, to walking distance of the mall and its amenities?” Planning Director Kristin Kassner detailed, who confirmed Planning Staff’s formal recommendation of support for the revised proposal.

The Burlington Mall location is believed to be an ideal spot for the charging equipment, due to the mall’s location and the need for Tesla charging stations in the area.

“This location is a great intersection at Rt. 3 and I-95 to help facilitate long-distance travel,” said Edward Noseworthy, of Tesla. “We currently have a gap in our network in this part of Massachusetts and there is a lot of Tesla traffic on I-95 and around Boston that needs to be serviced.”

The closest Tesla electric car charging stations are north of Burlington in the Lynnfield Marketplace. There are already universal electric vehicle charging stations in the Burlington Mall parking lot, in the area of The Friendly Toast.

Noseworthy also pointed out the Burlington Mall location is perfect for Tesla because the electric vehicle and clean energy company gears its charging stations towards areas with nice amenities so users can take advantage of nearby shops and restaurants they can walk to.

Simon Properties, owner of the Burlington Mall, “steered” Tesla to this area of the parking lot with the objective of utilizing a parking area deemed “overflow” and “underutilized.”

Noseworthy commented on the revised plans for the proposal.

“We do not want an electric car user to feel so isolated that they are forced to sit in their cars, away from the amenities of the mall,” he remarked. “I feel this is a compromise.”

The addition of new Evergreen trees has been included in the plan for natural screening of the 12 charging stations. Bollards would also be a added to the area where the charging station spaces would be.

Technology moving too fast?

The board viewed generally viewed the relocation a bit more favorably than the original proposal along Burlington Mall Road, but the majority of the planners had reservations about the project, as a whole.

Board member William Gaffney led the discussion, talking about the likely reality in the very near future that the proposed charging stations will be obsolete in the next five years, citing an article he recently read about electric cars and their batteries evolving by leaps and bounds to the point where 30-minute charging stations will be replaced by 5-minute gas station style electric charging settings.

“Technology is moving very quickly,” declared Gaffney. “Innovations for electric car batteries are evolving. There are talks of 5-minute electric car charging within the next 3-5 years. The evolution in the market is based on shorter charging times and longer distances traveled by electric cars.”

Other members remained critical of the new location and they want to make sure the proposed screening is sufficient, so the consensus was for the planners, Tesla and Burlington Mall to partake in a site walk before moving forward with any vote on the minor engineering change.

With a site walk expected to take place between now and the board’s next meeting in two weeks, the planners voted to continue this application to its next meeting on Feb. 4.

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