Accelerating to the future: Electric vehicles charge technology advances as the pit stops get faster – Niagara Gazette

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Updated: August 4, 2023 @ 1:35 pm
The Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls installed electric car charging stations for their customers convenience earlier this year
The Price Chopper on Route 13 in Cortlandville is home to two electric vehicle charging stations, allowing shoppers to charge their cars while they run errands.

The Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls installed electric car charging stations for their customers convenience earlier this year
The Price Chopper on Route 13 in Cortlandville is home to two electric vehicle charging stations, allowing shoppers to charge their cars while they run errands.
CORTLAND — Just a few years ago, having a plug-in vehicle meant immediate access to the best parking space in front of Price Chopper in Cortlandville. Today, that spot — and its vehicle charging station — is just as likely to be full.
Electric vehicle technology is advancing at a rapid pace, experts say, and New York has no plans of being left behind. However, this means Cortland County will need to add charging stations — and some municipalities are already on it.
“For myself, as an elected official, I think this transition to electric energy across sectors is critically important to combat climate change,” said Cortland County Legislator Beau Harbin (D-Cortland). “I support us moving forward with adding more electric charging stations in the city and in the county.”
In September, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that all new cars, pickup trucks and SUVs sold in the state will be zero emissions by 2035. New York is the second state to take this measure, behind California.
About 8% of new car sales nationwide in 2022 were electric vehicles, reports J.D. Power. Of the nearly 3 million registered vehicles in New York, only 150,000 are electric, reports the Energy Research and Development Authority.
There are two main differences between regular and electric vehicles, said Khurram Afridi, a Cornell University engineering professor.
“Compared to the internal combustion engine, the electric vehicle has these two differences: one: the internal combustion engine, which is the prime driver for motion, is replaced by an electric motor,” Afridi said. “And then the fuel tank, which stores energy in gasoline, is replaced by a lithium ion battery.”
“In a hybrid, you have both the internal combustion engine, as well as the electric motor,” Afridi added.
Cortland County has 20 charging stations, most in Cortland and Cortlandville, with a couple stations in Homer and Preble.
“The infrastructure is being built, both locally and across the state, and across the country,” Harbin said. “The technology in cars is getting better and better all the time.”
Putting charging stations in places like downtown Cortland and Dwyer Park will encourage out-of-towners to explore, Harbin said.
“It will help bring tourists and others into downtown Cortland and or bring them to Dwyer Park or other locations where they can get out, wander around, go visit the library or the post office, do some shopping — all by their vehicle chargers there,” Harbin said.
“I’ve been driving to visit my daughter in college,” Harbin said. “When you stop at the Thruway there’s a bunch of new, fast charging stations that are available. People go in, get something to eat and use the facilities while they’re charging to give them another couple hundred miles on the road, just like they’re used to doing gas. So we have to keep building the infrastructure, and that’s where the county can really help.”
As fast as charging stations are added, the technology changes — getting faster and more efficient, Afridi said.
“I think that any time you have new technology, it opens new opportunities for innovation and different people are working on various aspects of this,” Afridi said.
“Long-term, I think this (electric vehicles) is where we’re headed,” Harbin said. “That’s important in helping to mitigate the impacts of climate change, and doing our part. We’re really at the cusp of innovation on electric vehicles. Every day, we’re seeing greater range, faster charging times and new innovations — which we see every time we get a new industry that really starts to take off from an environmental impact.”
There are three charging levels:
• Level 1 is the slowest, often home chargers that can take up to two days to complete a charge.
• Level 2 chargers are faster, but still take about two hours to fully charge.
• Level 3 is the fastest, and most expensive, completing a charge in as fast as 20 minutes.
Homer is looking to add level 2 chargers at the Homer Town Hall, 31 N. Main St., Homer, Clune said.
To encourage the growth of infrastructure to support the influx of electric vehicles, the state submitted in 2022 a National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program plan. Over five years, the state will receive $175 million to build charging infrastructure along major highways.
“The NEVI program requires funds to be invested within one travel mile of designated EV corridors, with charging stations no more than 50 miles apart. Designated corridors include many of the state’s most-traveled interstate and state highways,” reports the Energy Research and Development Authority.
To fuel those vehicles, the rise of smaller energy generating productions, like solar farms, eases the growing burden on the electric grid, reports the National Conference of State Legislatures. The United States consumed about 4 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2021, reports the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
As the state pushes for more electric vehicles, especially with such new technologies, Afridi said supply of the lithium ion batteries may pose a challenge.
“Lithium ion batteries are certainly not something that is very easily available,” Afridi said. “Because, I mean, we’re still building up the production capability for lithium ion batteries.”
Another challenge with this technology is that after 10 years, lithium ion batteries aren’t able to store as much energy, Afridi said.
“Essentially, what happens after 10 years is that you will be able to use or you’d be able to store less energy in the same battery,” Afridi said. “So maybe it will degrade down to around 75% of its original capacity, and that might be still good enough for something that has an application where you care less about the weight and size of the battery.”
As some scientists look at increasing charging speeds or increasing storage capacity, others have looked at alternative ways of charging. Afridi said his research focuses on creating roadways that wirelessly charge electric vehicles as drivers drive.
“My own focus is on trying to reduce the amount of batteries that you have to carry in automobiles, or vehicles, trucks, buses, whatever,” Afridi said. “The primary approach that I’m looking at is to essentially put charging infrastructure in roadways in such a way that you can have a 10th of the battery on the vehicle.”
If roadways have this charging infrastructure, there is less need to carry a larger battery. This shortens charging times, Afridi said. “If most of your interstates and major routes have charging capability, then essentially all the energy you need to move will come from the road itself.”
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