The future: it’s electric

Rye Brook leaders’ interest in electric vehicle charging stations may take away some public parking in the Village

By John Donegan

This story originally appeared in the 7/30/21 edition of the Westmore News. For the original article, follow the link.

In the spirit of reducing their carbon impact and building towards greater infrastructure, the Village of Rye Brook is considering whether to install electric vehicle charging stations across the community.

“The stations would fit nicely with the Village’s commitment to promoting renewable energy,” said Rye Brook Mayor Paul Rosenberg.

The Village has pinpointed four potential locations for the stations: the Anthony J. Posillipo Community Center, Rye Brook Village Hall, the Garibaldi Park parking lot and Pine Ridge Park.

During their June 22 meeting, the Rye Brook Board of Trustees welcomed a presentation by Brandon Jacobs, a representative with Blink Charging, a Florida-based electric services company.

Trustees threw out potential locations such as the parking lot behind the Rye Brook Firehouse and the school lot between Harkness Park and Blind Brook Middle/High School. The latter would require approval from the district administration.

“The criteria are where people would be going for a period of time or where the cost to install is pretty low,” said Village Administrator Chris Bradbury. “We want to provide a location where people can charge up their vehicles, but the other part is we’re trying to put the infrastructure in place soon so that over the next 10 years we’ll have it in place because we expect in the next 10 years there will be a lot of electric cars out there.”

Jacobs pointed out that electric cars are the future but that fears such as “range anxiety,” or not having a station nearby, is one of the most common reasons why people do not switch to the gasless vehicles sooner. He then made the simple, proverbial connection: if you build it, the cars will come.

“Today, about 2% of all cars on the road are electric,” Jacobs said at the meeting. “But we’re expecting that number to climb to 20% by 2030 and that’s a conservative estimate. The demand will be skyrocketing in the next decade plus.”

In partnership with Sustainable Westchester, a non-profit offering energy and agricultural solutions across the county, Assistant to the Village Administrator Alex Marshall and Jacobs toured the proposed sites. Each spot would have installed one or two IQ 200 Level 2 EV charging stations. Each station has on it two charging ports which take up two parking spots. That said, wherever the station is placed would require sufficient amperage and could only go where reduced public parking can be afforded.

Once parking spots are designated as charging locations, they cannot be usable for normal parking. The board questioned whether creating charging spots, particularly at sites which already have limited spaces and see a lot of traffic, would be worth the investment.

“These spaces, when we put them in, they become electric vehicle only spaces,” Marshall said at the meeting. “That was one reason we weren’t considering putting four (stations) in Pine Ridge Park. It’s not a huge parking lot so that would take up a considerable amount of the parking for the people using the park. And being that it’s our most popular park, we thought that it might not be the most advantageous.”

“It’s our most popular, but it’s also potentially where you’re going to get the most people plugging in also,” Rosenberg added.

The board also considered whether they could put the stations along the street adjacent to Pine Ridge Park. Jacobs pointed out that stations on the street would be cheaper, stating that the closer the station is to where the power originates, the cheaper it is for everyone. The board unanimously agreed.

Rosenberg asked whether people would realistically use these chargers on a regular basis.

“I just have a hard time imagining that people are actually going to sit in the parking lot at Village Hall for a few hours, unless they’re going to play tennis at Harkness Park and charge their car,” the mayor said.

“Well, right now would have been a great time, for example, because the firehouse is being used for elections and there’s quite a bit of people parking there,” Marshall said, in reference to the primaries in June. “If someone is coming for a board meeting, they may be using it. Even if they’re only at Village Hall for a short period of time, they can still take advantage of the charger to top off, as they would with gas.”

The cost of the stations depends on which of two different options you choose, a Village-owned option or a hybrid model.

The cost and benefit of either depends largely on the rebate programs currently offered with the installation of the stations. New York State, through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), is offering a $4,000 rebate to municipalities for every plug they install. The second rebate is through Consolidated Edison, Inc., which offers to pay whoever owns the stations 90% of the installation fees.

If the Village purchases the stations outright, they dictate the price to use the chargers, collect all the revenue from them and receive both rebates. That said, they are responsible for the maintenance and expenses in case one of stations malfunctions.

In the hybrid model, the Village does not own the stations, but takes 70% of the revenue. They don’t set the price, but in their partnership with Sustainable Westchester, Blink would agree to a fixed price at $.30 per kWh. Blink’s average rate in the state of New York is $0.49 per kWh, though at-home charging rates, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, average $0.13 per kWh. The hybrid model would also get Rye Brook the NYSERDA rebate, but Blink banks the offer from ConEdison.

“If we went with Blink, the rates are fixed by Sustainable Westchester, so they can only charge a certain amount above the going rate,” Bradbury said. “So the rates are set by them, not by us, but there is a cap on it for residents so they’re not going to take advantage of people.”

Bradbury said they are leaning towards a hybrid model, stating they save a lot more money on installation and aren’t left with keeping the stations functional.

“In the (hybrid) option, it’s basically their equipment and during the first five years you basically make money on the installation in the first year, take advantage of the incentives, and then it’s a 70-30 split on the electric,” Bradbury said.

The board is interested but far from deciding where the charging stations will be located and how many they will commit to installing. Bradbury said a decision will be made in the next several months.

“Blink is just one provider we’re looking at,” Bradbury said. “We’re looking at other options as well. No decisions have been made or finalized—we’re just exploring right now.”

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