Business and Property owners are getting a jump on the infrastructure investments that will fuel the next generation.
By Mike De Socio – Digital Editor, Albany Business Review. Nov 21, 2019, 12:07pm EST
The last time you bought a car, you probably considered which brand to go with, what color you wanted and how much it would cost.
You probably didn’t think about what type of fuel it would take.
But the types of cars we buy are going to change on a fundamental level. The gas-powered cars that have fueled American transportation for decades are giving way to electric vehicles.
It’s not a matter of if electric cars will become commonplace — it’s just a matter of how fast. Driving electric will become less of a choice and more of a necessity as New York state’s climate legislation requires a complete transition away from fossil fuels by 2050. That’s 30 years away, but many drivers keep their cars for 10 or more years. Your next car, or the one after that, could very well be electric.
That has big implications not just for drivers, but also for business owners and landlords. The number of electric vehicles, including plug-in hybrids, registered in the Albany area right now is about 3,000 — less than 1% of all cars in the region. But that number has quadrupled over the past five years.
Owners of apartment complexes, office parks and shopping centers are already competing for state grants to install charging stations. New York has earmarked another $250 million to build fast chargers across the state through 2025. And that’s just the start: As electric vehicles continue to take off, the Albany region will need to rethink its electrical grid and remake its streets to keep up.
Picotte Cos., one of the largest commercial property managers in the region, is already confronting the need to invest in charging infrastructure. The company is installing three charging stations at its properties on Wolf Road in Colonie, prompted by tenants who requested them and a desire to get ahead of the trend.
“One of the things we struggle with is, how quickly will the demand come?” said Kevin Cavallaro, CFO at Picotte. “If you have the infrastructure, will more people be inclined to buy electric cars?”
Cavallaro thinks so, and he’s drafting a plan to install more chargers at the Corporate Woods office park and other properties, which could add as many as 30 charging ports to Picotte’s portfolio.
Picotte isn’t alone. The owner of Hudson Preserve in Latham installed 26 electric car chargers this summer — the largest installation of chargers at any apartment complex in the state. Real estate developer [Uri Kaufman](https://www.bizjournals.com/albany/search/results?q=Uri%20Kaufman) recently installed charging stations at Harmony Mills in Cohoes. And municipalities such as Troy, Saratoga Springs and Scotia are investing in chargers and electric fleets.
PlugIn Stations Online, an installer based in Albany, handled the work at Hudson Preserve. It’s a small fraction of the hundreds of charging ports the company has installed around the state this year, including jobs in Hudson, New Paltz and Buffalo.
“It’s unbelievable how much more interest there is in the vehicles and the stations,” said [John Doran](https://www.bizjournals.com/albany/search/results?q=John%20Doran), president of PlugIn Stations Online.
Doran’s company is working on four or five jobs at any given time. PlugIn Stations Online recently won a contract with the New York Power Authority that will allow the company to bid on projects along the New York State Thruway.
“It’s gotten to the point where it’s so overwhelming, the amount of work that we’re getting, it almost sells itself,” Doran said.
Incentives for infrastructure
Nearly all of the business and property owners who’ve installed charging stations recently are taking advantage of incentives from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and National Grid.
Stacey Hughes, the EV program manager at National Grid, said the charging station incentives are “wildly popular” in the Albany region, much more so than the rest of upstate.
The average dual-port charging station costs about $10,000, Hughes said. National Grid can pay for the infrastructure that supports the charging station, and NYSERDA will pay for the charging station itself.
“To me, that combination of incentives breaks down most barriers to putting in charging stations,” Hughes said.
National Grid chooses projects to fund based on cost and location. Hughes said the goal is to create a network of chargers that reduces “range anxiety,” or the fear that an electric vehicle might run out of energy without a nearby charger. If drivers have the option of charging at home — whether they own their house or live in an apartment — and at work, it builds confidence.
Hughes also sees opportunity beyond passenger vehicles — there’s potential to electrify school buses, public transportation and commercial fleets.
“There’s so much untapped potential. We could talk for hours about what we’re not addressing,” Hughes said.