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More electric car chargers coming soon- fees to follow

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If you drive an electric vehicle, buckle up: the university is planning to build more charging stations on both campuses and is considering plans to start charging owners a small fee at all stations to meet growing demand.

The university plans to add three to five more electric vehicle charging stations at both the Uptown and Downtown campuses over Summer 2019, according to Director of Parking and Mass Transit Jason Jones.

Jones said there is currently no proposed date to implement a fee, but he estimated it would be 15 to 20 cents per kilowatt-hour. Most electric vehicles require a 4-hour charge at EV charging stations.

“It’s getting to the point where we are out of the pilot phase of our testing,” Jones said.

Mary Ellen Mallia, Director of Sustainability, said guidance for charging the fee could be ready during the Fall 2019 semester.

Chamberlain Harris, a student who owns a registered fuel-efficient vehicle and commutes to campus, said she agrees with Jones’s pricing rationale.

“I’m not sure how necessary it is for the university to be implementing the stations, but the prices are reasonable,” she said. “You need to pay for gas, so it makes sense that you are paying to charge your vehicle.”

The university already has five charging stations on campus that are free of charge: Colonial Quad visitor’s parking lot at Collins Circle, the SEFCU parking circle, Indian Quad along Life Sciences Lane, at the Parking and Mass Transit Services building, and Thurlow Terrace in the Downtown campus.

Jones hopes to have new EV stations built at the downtown campus and the Empire apartments.

“People get excited and you get to be a part of that,” Mallia said. “We are in a new generation lifestyle; we are in the middle of societal transitions. That’s why we’d like to support changing habits at institutional levels.”

According to the parking registration software system, there are just over 300 registered fuel-efficient vehicle. on campus.

National Grid data sent to Director Mallia showed that the Collins Circle charging station was the second-most used in the state, while the Thurlow Terrace charging station was the third-most used.

Cat Pham, who uses the CDTA and UAlbany buses for his 2 hour commute to and from campus, sees the benefit of having more charging stations but prefers to see more buses on the road.

“I think improving bus schedules would help the campus community more because it encourages people to take mass transit,” he said. “I haven’t really thought about getting a car, let alone an electric one, because we have mass transit. In fact, I wouldn’t need a car if buses ran more consistently.”

When asked why he didn’t ask for more buses, Director Jones pointed to the university community’s commuting preferences in his grant opportunity research.

“Look at the system. We have a strong relationship with the CDTA and we already have our internal UAlbany buses, but many commuter students and faculty members still drive in their single person vehicles,” he said. “What to invest in has become a balancing act, but I think we’re at a great balance right now.”

Each charging station is $8000 – $9000 for the equipment and $3000 – $4000 for installation. It’s $1500 to operate and maintain, according to Jones.

Much of the funding for past charging stations have come from grants, with about $8000 or 67 percent of the total cost provided per station. The rest of the funding comes from the university’s Finance and Administration office.

The Finance and Administration office has already supported building more EV charging stations, as it has approved the purchases, according to Director Jones.

“It’s easier to implement these kinds of technologies when the university’s agenda aligns with yours,” he said. “There’s a consumer and community benefit when they are used on campus.”

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