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Old 04-25-2015, 09:34 AM   #1
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Default Finding Easier Ways To Charge Electric Vehicles

Jeremy McCool is convinced there is a better way to charge electric vehicles in a crowded city than using a wired plug.

Mr. McCool is founder and chief executive of Hevo Power, a Brooklyn-based start-up that is working to create a home for electric vehicles in an environment that is inherently challenging to them.

First, he and his team developed a wireless charger designed to look like an ordinary manhole cover and fit unobtrusively into the urban landscape. They are also working on what he calls a “green loading zone.” Electric trucks simply drive up and recharge wirelessly while they are parked. He plans to test the technology by the fall at New York University, on a groundskeeping vehicle.

That day will be a long-awaited milestone for Hevo Power, which has been working on its products for several years, Mr. McCool said.

“It has felt like an impossible journey,” he said. Hevo developed its wireless charging platforms with the help of a $240,000 grant from New York State.

With vast numbers of apartment dwellers, New York, along with cities like Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco, represents the promise, and the challenges, of what is a large, still-untapped market for electric vehicles.

“New York City has the highest percentage of apartment households in the United States,” said Jim Lapides, a spokesman for the National Multifamily Housing Council. That density, as well as government bureaucracy, cold weather, the difficulty of curbside recharging on busy streets and the high cost of owning a vehicle in a city in general, makes running an electric car a challenge.

But government officials remain committed to trying to encourage electric vehicle use, saying that even if only a small fraction of drivers switch to a plug-in car, the reduction in carbon emissions could be significant.

For example, the Philadelphia Parking Authority has pursued a novel strategy — it lets residents reserve public spaces for an annual fee and pay for installation of chargers there. But only about 20 people have signed up, according to Martin O’Rourke, a spokesman for the authority.

In California, the epicenter of electric vehicle deployment, NRG eVgo, a charging provider, is offering a special deal for apartment and condominium dwellers through the state’s Take Charge program. Property owners pay nothing to have their parking wired for electric charging. Car owners then pay $39 a month as well as the cost of electricity, which is rebated to the property owner.

“It’s been very challenging for renters in California who want to buy an EV,” said Terry O’Day, a vice president at NRG eVgo. The need is clearly large. In Santa Monica, where he lives, Mr. O’Day said that 80 percent of residents live in rental or condo properties.

There is the prospect of many more chargers to come in California, though. Pacific Gas and Electric, a utility in the central and northern parts of the state, is proposing to install 25,000 chargers in its coverage area. That kind of density suits the region.


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“We have a little more than 60,000 EVs registered, and that’s more than 20 percent of the total in the United States,” said Jonathan Marshall, a spokesman for the utility.

But in New York, especially Manhattan and Brooklyn, the challenges remain high. “Manhattan is so dense and vertical that traditional approaches to charging don’t work,” said John Shipman, who runs electric vehicle programs at Con Edison, the city’s main utility.

However, the obstacles have not stopped a multitude of agencies and companies from trying to make it a reality, starting with the city itself. Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office, said that city fleets now have 825 plug-in vehicles of all types, and 203 charging stations, — “still the largest single network in New York State.”

Ms. Spitalnick also pointed to a new city law that requires 20 percent of new off-street parking to be built “charger-ready.” Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, she said, “has been aggressively increasing the city government’s use of electric vehicles, while continuing to partner with the private sector to expand charging infrastructure for private vehicles.”

In 2013, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo introduced ChargeNY, which aims to put up to 40,000 plug-in vehicles and 3,000 public charging stations on state roads by 2018. According to state statistics, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has supported 120 stations in New York City, though others have been installed without state help.

The private sector also has New York in its sights. NRG eVgo is “in the early stages” of building a fast-charging network in the New York City region, said David Knox, a company spokesman. CarCharging, based in Florida, has installed chargers in partnership with city parking garages and lots.

“Some are being used quite often; others less so,” said CarCharging’s chief executive, Michael D. Farkas. “We have a location at the Time Warner Center that is off the charts.”

Mr. Farkas said that the electric car he sees most frequently in New York is the Tesla Model S. Khobi Brooklyn, a spokeswoman for the high-end maker of electric cars, said that the company was committed to making charging convenient in Manhattan, and was “in discussion with dozens of parking garages” that are interested in installing Tesla stations.

There are currently 3,000 registered electric vehicles, including some operated by fleets, in Con Edison’s service territory, which includes New York City and Westchester County, Mr. Shipman said. It’s a fraction of the more than 2 million vehicles registered in the city alone.

Hevo Power, largely stymied in its efforts with manhole covers, said it was turning its attention to loading zones and fleets.

Hevo Power’s green loading zone would allow electric vehicles to charge and trucks to run their refrigeration units off available electric power.

Adam Lubinsky, managing principal at WXY Architecture + Urban Design, said his company had worked with the city to study the feasibility of such green zones.

Brett E. Skolnick, 63, who lives in Philadelphia and works in pharmaceutical development, is one electric car owner taking advantage of the Philadelphia Parking Authority’s program. He parks his Tesla Model S outside his home in the Fairmount neighborhood.

“We have no regrets,” he said, despite what he said were some minor problems. “The parking space has changed our lives in terms of being able to go out to dinner, visit friends and come back to an available space and charging.”
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