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Chicken or the Egg?

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Public charging station


As with many things in this world, people beg the question, what came first the chicken or the egg? In the world of electric vehicles (EV's), this is no different. For those who wish to purchase an EV, they want to know that the infrastructure is in place so they can go to a multitude of locations to charge their vehicles. However, for those in the industries that will put that infrastructure in place, they want to know, before they spend their money, that people are going to buy the cars and use the stations. This dichotomy has created problems for both sides.

As installers of EV charging stations, the team at PlugIn Stations Online has found it difficult at best to find true "trail blazers." Individuals who are willing to lay out the significant funds to install these stations are few and far between.  However, for those who are willing to take the chance, such as the group at the Holiday Inn Express (HIE) Downtown Albany, the rewards have far outweighed the initial cost. At first, the hotel owners were very skeptical of the possibilities with this new technology. Today, they have embraced it and are looking at expanding their charging capabilities. So, let's take a moment to examine what has changed their mind.

In the 8 months since we installed their initial station, the group at HIE has seen a significant number of charging sessions at their location. In fact, the initial goal of "heads in beds," has been achieved through the advertising of this station on what is known as the ChargePoint Network. People from across New York and America can see the station location and its availability. Since this is one of only a few stations in the upstate region, and the only one on the "network," people with EV's have booked rooms at the HIE just because of this amenity. Just a few short years ago, customers were thrilled to be able to plug in their laptops in the hotel lobby to get internet service. Today, Americans expect to have wifi available at every hotel. In the coming years, it is fair to state that hotels will be expected to provide charging capabilities to their customers.Charging station or electric vehicle

So, now that we have established that hotels are excellent locations for charging stations, where else do people need to see progress in the infrastructure before they will take the proverbial leap? The simple answer is municipalities. Towns and cities across the nation must, and should make a commitment to this technology for a multitude of reasons. America's dependence on foreign sources of oil has brought our economy and our environment to the brink. In fact, according to the  Environmental Protection Agency, the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted into our environment through the burning of fossil fuels for transportation equaled 1,745.5 million metric tons in 2010 (EPA: Report on Energy, 2010). Therefore, the answer is simple, towns and cities across America should and must continue to adopt sustainability programs to secure this nation for posterity. One aspect of those sustainability programs should be the development of the EV infrastructure. As electric vehicles hit the roads of America, people will look for places to charge. Many cities across the nation could offer charging to both their residents, as well as tourists and potentially those people who are traveling through their towns. What a wonderful way to introduce people that would normally bypass a city or town to the other amenities these towns have to offer.

So, what is the status of charging stations here in the Capital Region? A year ago there weren’t any charging stations available here to the public. Today there are probably 10 available. With corporate and NYSERDA (just announced funding for 325 charging stations throughout NYS) efforts there should be over 40 a year from now. Still we need to install a lot more as this chicken and egg cycle repeats and there are more people driving EVs throughout the area, looking to avoid that new malady, range anxiety, for which charging stations is the cure!

Finally, it should be understood that not everyone is as passionate about electric vehicles and saving the environment as those in the industry. There are many questions to be answered, who are the stakeholders and what does everyone have to gain from this technology? Therefore, the next question I will explore is, how do the drivers of electric vehicles educate and persuade the doubting public to convert to this new technology?

John Doran is a founder and business manager of Plugin Stations Online, a sponsor of OEIC. He may be reached by comments to this blog or by email.

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