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Albany Airport Unveils 6 Electric Car Chargers

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

The New York Power Authority and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority on Wednesday unveiled the first of 100 planned installations they’re partnering on to charge electric vehicles statewide.  It's part of a larger effort that seeks to encourage more electric vehicles and the infrastructure to support them.

When Governor Andrew Cuomo launched Charge NY in 2012, just 2,500 electric vehicles were on the road in the state. That figure has grown to 8,000.  The newest charging installation is at the Albany International Airport; it includes three charging stations in the long-term parking lot and three in the airport’s parking garage. Gil Quiniones is president and CEO of the New York Power Authority. "These are really the ideal locations for charging stations because these are places where customers leave their cars fro an extended period of time. They are part of what we're calling Charge New York Initiative, which aims to build an entire network of up to 3000 charging stations across New York State by 2018."

Airport officials say use will be monitored; additional park and charge stations will be added if needed.   Quiniones noted "The direction that we are moving today is to try and eliminate the anxiety EV drivers may experience of not knowing where they will get their next refueling charge."

There are plans for more installations at commuter rail stations and workplaces. A $1.6 million grant paid for the Albany Airport station, and the Albany County Airport Authority will cover the cost of electricity for the first two years.

Wait a minute! What happens after that?  NYPA Associate Research Tech Engineer Kala Henry explains that the airport will be evaluating within the first two years how it will collect revenue from this.   "The idea is you come to the airport, they already have a 9 dollar charge for parking, so for the first two years you will only be charged 9 dollars. After that, the airport may decide to either charge per kilowatt hour, there are many different ways that they can charge... per kilowatt hour, per charge event, meaning how many times you plug in and unplug. Or, just on a flat rate. Like charge you 5 dollars, no matter how many..."

Dave Lucas: "Do you have any idea what these days a charge would cost if somebody had to pay for it?"

Kala:  "For this vehicle it'll cost about 3 maybe 4 dollars to fully charge the car. For just the cost of electricity."

Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
A Ford electric car charges up at Albany (NY) International Airport

That particular vehicle was a small Ford (pictured).  Of course, there are variables: the make and model of the vehicle, the outdoor temperature...  

Electric charging units are commonplace along streets in Paris: 606 EV charging stations looking similar to parking meters here at home. The going rate for a charge is roughly 5 U.S. dollars.

At Disney World in Orlando, the rate is 35 cents per kilowatt hour, with a MINIMUM service fee of $1.50. Parking fees are tacked on, and charge time runs about 4 hours.

Some perspective here: to drive 1000 miles using gas only in a hybrid like a Chevy Volt,  you'll spend around $150 at current prices. Same car, same distance under electric power will cost you $44.

And the average cost to charge a Nissan Leaf is roughly $3.60 and takes three hours.  Again, Gil Quiniones:    "This is new technology. We need to understand our customer experience, so that technology providers can improve on installing and operating this."

Charge New York moves forward as manufacturers ramp up production of EV's  while engineering teams work to develop batteries that charge faster and stay charged longer. Indianapolis is one of the first American cities rolling out electric car-share programs to encourage residents to leave their gas guzzlers at home.

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy is setting an example with his own transportation, likely to expand to other county-owned  vehicles.    "It has to start with me. I went with the hybrid. We have to start changing our fleet over time. People are gonna see that. We're gonna be the greenest county."                                           

Credit ?man | ????? @ImaniAmrani via twitter
Electric cars charging while parked on a street in Paris, France

But if someone is flying out of Albany International and leaves a car to charge, it's done after four hours, and that traveler might be gone for days, needlessly tying up a charging station. So there may be a need for a valet service, which could involve an added fee. Quiniones admits there are kinks to be ironed out.   "Those are the kind of things we're trying to learn. Customer acceptance, customer experience on how, how do we best set up the configuration on the charging of cars."

EV's are "smart cars" so there's an app for smartphones called "EV Connect" that can be downloaded through a QR code displayed at the charging station. It lets drivers know when a charger is available, when their car is charged, and whatever other information it may be empowered to collect.

Airport officials expect real-time availability information will be posted on the airport’s website.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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