Charging Into the Future

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Charging Into the Future
Town of Ellicottville Installs Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
Story and Photo By John Thomas
Staff Writer

   Electric Cars are coming! Although they seem like the latest thing, Electric Vehicles (EVs) have actually been around for years. The first electric vehicles were sold in the US in the 1880’s. They were very popular in the early 20th century, but improvements in internal combustion engines and widespread distribution of cheap gasoline lead to their demise. Now, the pendulum is beginning to swing the other way. Improvements in batteries, power management, and the spread of recharging stations are fueling the comeback of EVs. The Town of Ellicottville has just completed installing two new EV charging stations at Town Center. They join the EV charging station at the Inn at Holiday Valley that was installed two years ago. Currently, there is no charge for the power from the chargers. Town Supervisor Matt McAndrew says a requirement of the energy grant from the state mandates the Town pay for the power. Mr. McAndrew thinks there might be two EV cars registered in the county. Calls to the DMV to confirm this were unreturned.

   Electric Vehicles come in three basic flavors: Hybrid vehicles that use a combination of a gas engine and an electric motor to increase gas mileage (Toyota Prius), plug-in hybrids that use a small gas engine to charge the batteries for the electric motor (GM Volt), and 100% electric vehicles (Tesla Model 3 and Chevy Bolt). Both the plug-in hybrids and 100% EVs can use the charging stations. The auto companies have standardized on the plugs and recharge power requirements. This means any EV can be charged for free at Town Center. Charge stations are being installed across the country at a furious pace. Currently, in New York alone there are 1,567 charging stations. A quick charge station can bring an EV car back to full charge in about a half hour.

   Once considered exotic and expensive, EVs are becoming mainstream. When the Tesla Model S debuted, it cost $160,000. The Nissan Leaf was the first EV targeted at the consumer market. Last year Tesla announced the Model 3 with a price tag just over $30,000. GM is now selling the Bolt, an electric SUV for $34,000. Not to be left out, Ford is offering the 2017 Focus Electric for $29,000.   The federal government is offering a tax credit of $7,500 for the purchase of many models of EV and plug-in hybrid cars. New York is chiming in with a $2,000 tax credit for many of the same vehicles. The two credits combined make many EV cars affordable. Furthermore, many insurance companies are offering discounts for insuring EV cars. In many areas, EVs can use the multi-passenger commute lanes with just the driver, and EVs are exempt from state pollution regulations.

   The installation of the charging stations came about because of the NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Agency) Clean Communities Program. The program consists of ten “High Impact Action Items” for saving energy.   Municipalities that complete four of the ten items, may apply for one of the grants. The amount of the grants available varies depending on the size of the community. Large cities can qualify for one of two $250,000 grants. Smaller communities can apply for one of ten $50,000 grants. The Impact Items include projects like performing an energy audit on municipal buildings, replacing old streetlights with energy efficient LEDs, installing EV charging stations, converting some municipal vehicles to alternative fuels, creating a unified solar permit, and training code enforcement officers in the latest municipal energy codes. With the installation of the charging stations, the Town has completed four of the items and submitted its application for a $50,000 grant. There may be only two electric cars registered in Cattaraugus County now, but that is sure to change.

The two EV charging stations at Town Center. Virtually all Electric Vehicles can charge at the station, and the power is free.