By LIAM MAYO
SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — Electric vehicles (EVs) play an increasingly large role in the world’s near future.
The International Energy Agency (an intergovernmental organization that helps direct energy security and sustainability) reports that nearly 10 percent of global car sales were EVs in 2021, four times what they were two years previously. For the U.S., that figure was around 4.6 percent, a little over double its 2019 number.
That trend holds true closer to home. Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress (HVPP) (a nonprofit that provides research, planning and training) reports that over five percent of new vehicle registrations in New York State in 2022 were EVs. Over 15,700 EVs roam the highways and the back roads of the nine-county Hudson Valley region, Sullivan County included.
More EVs on the road means a greater need for the charging stations to support them. That’s where the Hudson Valley still has work to do, and it’s where HVPP plans to help; the organization announced a public education campaign for 2023 that will spread knowledge about the proper siting of EV infrastructure and the funds that can be used to pay for it.
“The Hudson Valley must be smart and strategic about the installation of public charging stations, which are quickly becoming essential infrastructure,” says HVPP CEO Adam Bosch.
Why electric chargers?
Your decision whether or not to buy an EV may come down to all sorts of factors, including environmental leanings, safety concerns and personal taste.
When a municipality or a business decides whether or not to build an EV charger, a particular selling point may be the charger’s ability to draw people in.
“People are [increasingly] crafting their travel plans around the availability of EV charging,” reads the HVPP report, looking at their effect on the tourist economy. Electric vehicle ownership has risen over the past few years in Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, from under 15,000 in 2016 to over 80,000 in 2021. “Visitors will continue to come to the Hudson Valley if we have charging that is strategically sited and easy to access.”
Electric vehicle chargers promote more than just a tourist economy. They can also increase an area’s viability for any electric vehicle owners, including those looking for a new place to live.
The Sullivan County Office of Sustainable Energy (OSE) identified that potential boon to the county back in 2017. It inaugurated an infrastructure reimbursement program to support municipalities that wanted to invest in electric vehicle chargers, and wrote in the program guidelines that “it is in the county’s best interest to promote the development of this network of charging stations because it will encourage EV drivers to consider Sullivan County as a location to live, work and visit.”
That particular program is no longer active (though Bethel and Thompson both took advantage of it at the time), and the county doesn’t have local funding for electric vehicle infrastructure at this time, said Heather Brown, sustainability coordinator with the OSE. “However, there are various incentives available to property owners who are interested in hosting EV charging infrastructure.” She pointed to a number of initiatives from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), available at on.ny.gov/3GOB2iZ.
Where is Sullivan County at?
Back in August, SUNY Sullivan announced the installation of four dual-port charging stations, accommodating a total of eight cars, funded through one of NYSERDA’s grants. The chargers can be used by students, faculty and staff in addition to the community at large, according to a press release announcing the installation.
“Electric vehicles are the future and fit with the sustainability mission of the college,” said SUNY Sullivan President Jay Quaintance. “Having the opportunity to charge vehicles on campus is just another way that we are moving to a greener future at SUNY Sullivan.”
The Hudson Valley area had 400 charging stations as of September 2022, according to the HVPP report. Eleven of those were in Sullivan County, and the county had a seven-EV-to-one-EV charger ratio, better than the 10-to-one ratio recommended by the International Energy Association.
“Sullivan County would benefit from a fast-charging station along the Route 97 corridor, where fishermen, boaters and other tourists drive the economy for towns along the Delaware River,” the report recommends. “The intersection of Route 17 and Route 17B might also be a smart location for charging, since it is a corridor that leads to many of the county’s top tourism destinations.”
The task of siting an EV charger poses challenges beyond picking a location. Chargers use an immense amount of electricity—HVPP reports that one direct-current fast-charging station uses as much power as a 1,000 unit apartment building—requiring coordination with electric utilities to place. It’s good practice too to consider the use case for an EV charger, according to HVPP; charging stations should exist where the most people will use them, not where a municipality can most conveniently place them.
If the current trends in EV ownership keep up, those are challenges more and more municipalities in the Hudson Valley—and in Sullivan County—will have to face.