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First electric car charge station opens in St. Lawrence County


CANTON — Officials gathered Tuesday to christen the arrival of St. Lawrence County’s first electric car charging station at St. Lawrence University.

It looks a bit like an average gas pump, but electricity is cheaper and more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels. It also takes a lot longer to fill up a car, about six hours.

Although it was opened officially Tuesday, St. Lawrence University’s charging station was installed about a week ago, quickly followed by another at Clarkson University, Potsdam. A third may come soon to SUNY Canton.

The stations are part of a $1 million grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, in partnership with National Grid and ChargePoint Inc., Campbell, Calif., to install 80 charging stations statewide.

“It’s a tremendous partnership. New York state is really focused on just that, clean, green types of projects,” said Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa.

The stations at St. Lawrence University and Clarkson will be free and open to the public to park their cars and charge up.

Those who wish to use the system will have to register for an account with ChargePoint, the company that controls 70 percent of the nation’s electric vehicle charging stations.

The hope is that if charging stations are available, more customers will decide to invest in electric cars.

“The more infrastructure that comes into a community, the more cars get sold,” said Colleen C. Quinn, vice president of government relations at ChargePoint.

She described the impact of making stations accessible at work a “halo effect.”

“You put a station like this in a workplace and you will see employees buy cars,” she said.

That’s exactly what St. Lawrence University is hoping for.

“We hope this charging station and the broader network will encourage the faculty who were considering buying an electric car to do so,” said Louise E. Gava, the university’s sustainability coordinator.

About 12 percent of the college’s estimated carbon emissions come from students and faculty commuting, she said.

Electric cars still have some limitations compared with their gas-guzzling counterparts. Besides the long charge time, most commercially available electric vehicles can travel less than 100 miles per charge, which can be especially problematic in large, spread-out areas such as St. Lawrence County.

Home charging stations are the most popular way for electric car owners to fuel up, with public stations used primarily for those in need of a quick recharge to finish their trip.

However, with prices dropping, cars becoming more efficient and more infrastructure being created, officials Tuesday described electric cars as a valid alternative to traditional ways of getting around.

“Plug-in electric vehicles have really arrived,” National Grid spokesman Richard L. Burns said.

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