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Albany is pushing to get more electric chargers on the roadside to encourage more electric cars

Battery car chargers at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus
Mike Desmond
Battery car chargers at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus

You can’t operate an electric vehicle without charging the battery and state agencies say that’s the problem part right now. An alliance of those agencies is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to build charger stations.

John Markowitz from the State Power Authority said the need was clear.

“Outside of the proprietary Tesla fast-charging network, it was really impossible to drive a non-Tesla EV in large portions of the state back in 2018, like the North Country, the Southern Tier and part of Western New York were pretty much DC fast-charging deserts," he said.

It’s still not easy and Washington dollars bring with them rules and regulations. The State Thruway is the only Interstate which can have chargers with fees right on the road. Others have to be at least one mile off the road. At the same time, those rules include ADA accessibility rules and requirements for enough electricity to operate four chargers.

There’s a shortage of workers to build and maintain the units. NYSERDA’s Adam Ruder says his agency will cooperate with SUNY on training.

“To encourage folks across the state to use these training programs and, to the extent that that element and the charger installation and maintenance training can be part of how we approach workforce development, then we will certainly try to piggyback on other efforts that are going on," Markowitz said.

There are also the usual quirks of deep government involvement in where its money goes. Zeryai Hagos from the Public Service Commission cites small public power system in discussing local governments getting help to build charger stations for its vehicles.

“As long as the municipality is a customer of one of the six investor-owned utilities or the Long Island Power Authority. The main reason for that is that the funding for those programs.was raised from those utility customers," Hagos said. "So, if you happen to be one of the few municipalities that isn't served by one of the major utilities, you wouldn't be eligible, but most are.”

Albany is putting together a federally mandated annual plan on helping convert car fuel from fossil to electricity.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.