Municipalities poised to expand zero-emission footprint

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Monroe County municipalities will get funds from the New York Power Authority to increase electric vehicle ownership. NYPA plans to provide $1.1 million in additional funding for rural and municipal electric cooperative systems to purchase hybrid and electric vehicles for their fleets.

“This funding allows NYPA to strengthen its successful partnerships with its municipal electric and rural electric cooperative system customers and help them gradually replace less efficient fuel vehicles,” says John Koelmel, chairman of the NYPA Board of Trustees. “Adding electric and hybrid vehicles to municipal fleets will lower maintenance expenses, reduce transportation pollution and expand EV use throughout the state.”

The financial assistance, which is available through the Municipal and Rural Cooperative Electric Utilities Electric-Drive Vehicle Program, is part of an initiative to expand electric vehicle ownership. It provides zero-interest loans to the Power Authority’s municipal and rural electric cooperative system customers for the purchase of electric and hybrid-electric vehicles for use in their fleets, as well as associated battery charging equipment. The funds are then recovered from customers over a period of up to three years through a surcharge on their NYPA electric bills, officials say.

The program, which began in 2003, has allocated $12 million so far. In 2016, the funding helped Fairport Electric create the largest municipal utility electric vehicle fleet in the state at the time.

According to the most recent snapshot reports from the Department of Motor Vehicles, which include electric vehicles owned by both individuals and businesses, Monroe County is among the top in New York State electric vehicle ownership per capita.

Out of 63 counties, Monroe County ranks 12th in registered battery electric vehicles, powered entirely by an electric motor and ninth in registered plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, which have both an electric plug-in and gas motor. The average per capita registration rate is 1.11 for BEVs and 1.71 for PHEVs statewide.

In Monroe County, electric vehicle ownership tends to be located in southern and eastern suburbs, such as the towns of Fairport and Webster. In particular, the town of Pittsford, which is located in the southeastern part of Monroe, has the highest levels of top-end luxury models.

In more rural western Monroe, where people typically have to drive further distances, electric vehicle ownership is low. (According to the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure, the average distance of an electric car is about 190 miles on a single charge.) Ownership rates are also lower in the inner city of Rochester. 

Chevrolet is the most popular company for total electric vehicles, while Tesla and Toyota dominate the individual numbers of BEVs and PHEVs, respectively. Companies that fell under 100 total registered vehicles include Kia, BMW, Chrysler, Subaru and others.

Still, these numbers are much smaller in proportion to all cars in the area. To date, only 1 percent of all registered vehicles in Monroe County are electric vehicles.

In addition to the Municipal and Rural Cooperative Electric Utilities Electric-Drive Vehicle Program, NYPA’s EVolve NY program is also building infrastructure for electric vehicles through a network of fast-charging stations across the state. The agency plans to construct over 150 charging stations along major interstate corridors, in five major cities and at New York City airports by the end of the year.

Though the city of Rochester has low ownership numbers, it has the largest number of charging stations grouped in that area, compared with western Monroe. Beside the city of Rochester, the town of Henrietta has the next highest number of charging stations with 13 in total.

Monroe County has just under 100 charging stations which are operated primarily by companies ChargePoint and EV Connect. According to EVolve, the county has four stations. However, only one in Fairport, is operational, with others in Irondequoit, Henrietta, and Victor still in the pre-construction phase.

Jacob Schermerhorn is a Rochester Beacon intern. He is pursuing a graduate degree in journalism at City University of New York.

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