One of the cars on display at the Auto Show, at the Oncenter in Syracuse, is the Nisson Leaf. It is an all electric vehicle which will travel 73 miles on a single charge. But if you're going on a long trip, you don't want to be caught far from an electric charging station.
Charging stations, specifically for electric cars, are showing up everywhere thanks in large part to taxpayer funded grants.
Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing to invest $50 million over five years to install 25,000 charging stations throughout the state. The federal government has earmarked $115 million to place them in a number of metropolitan areas nationwide.
Rarely do you see anyone charging up an electric car at these stations. There are nine of them located around the City Hall in Rome, but Mayor Joseph Fusco says he's only seen one vehicle plugged into a charging station, and that was last summer. The stations were installed during the prior administration.
"I think it was an experimental type of thing, we may have put in more than we should have. But again, when you get one of those grants from up above, let's spend the money regardless of whether it's going to accomplish it or not," Fusco told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon.
There may be more charging stations than there are electric cars. According to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, there are 4,338 electric or hybrid electric cars registered in New York. Of that number, only 210 are located in the six county region of Central New York.
In the Syracuse area, 68 of the charging stations were installed by the not-for-profit group Synapse Sustainability Trust, which received a $700,000 grant to fund half of the project. The trust's executive director, Chris Beck, says they're strategically located so drivers now and in the future can get to a destination and back again.
"The whole concept here is developing an infrastructure that supports the volume of electric cars that are planning to come out in the United States of America," Beck said.
Meanwhile, car makers may be perfecting the electric car, but they're also making them so you don't have to charge them at one of these stations. For instance, the Chevy Volt has a gas assist generator that will take over when the batteries run down.
"It relieves that ease of range anxiety that a lot of people have with electric cars today," according to Perry Richardson of East Syracuse Chevrolet.
So the government is investing a lot of money on charging stations on the belief that electric cars will be the wave of the future, but for now, they mostly stand unused.