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Clean fleets: Auburn celebrates new vehicle charging station in downtown parking garage

Andrew Simkin plugs in his Nissan Leaf all electric car at the electric vehicle charging station in the public parking garage on Lincoln Street in Auburn Friday. Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen

AUBURN — The city of Auburn has unveiled its first electric vehicle charging station, which was installed in the public parking garage on Lincoln Street.

On Friday, several city and state officials hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony downtown to celebrate the charging station. The station was part of a city, county and statewide effort to promote alternative fuel vehicles in the community.

Auburn Mayor Michael Quill said the project was the one of four high-impact action items the city completed to receive a Clean Energy Community designation. That designation will now allow the city to apply for up to $50,000 in state grants for other clean energy projects, including a geothermal energy system at the Equal Rights Heritage Center.

"The (charging) station is an important step toward meeting the goals of the city of Auburn and Cayuga County," Quill said. "Hopefully it will help to encourage tourism and a cleaner, safer way of life in the city of Auburn."

The city displayed several electric vehicles at the parking garage Friday, including the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Bolt EV and Smart Fortwo Electric Drive. Those who attended could actually take the vehicles out for a test drive or ride-along.

According to Chris Carrick, the energy program manager for the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board, one of the biggest barriers with electric vehicles has been the uncertainty about where and how drivers can charge up their batteries. That is why Governor Andrew Cuomo launched an initiative to install 3,000 charging stations throughout the state by 2018.

"Our regional plan identified gaps where public charging stations are not currently available in the region ... and made recommendations about new stations in key locations to establish a comprehensive charging network," Carrick said in a press release.

"Charging stations like this help to make customers more comfortable by alleviating the anxiety that potential (electric vehicle) owners may feel," he added at the event Friday. "They know they have a place to charge up their batteries and it makes it more likely that they'll buy an electric vehicle."

Auburn's new charging station is now one of 1,700 stations statewide. In total, 25 stations will be installed in the Capital District, Mohawk Valley, Central New York, Genesee and Western New York; most should be operational by the end of the year.

As of July 2017, there were around 20,000 electric vehicles registered in the state, with more than 2,500 registered in central New York — Auburn-based attorney Andrew Simkin owns one of them.

Simkin attended the ribbon-cutting Friday to speak about his experience as an "EV driver." He said he loves his electric car, a 2015 Nissan Leaf with an 84-mile charge, as it requires less maintenance and costs less per mile than a gasoline-powered car.

"For me it's a very practical vehicle," Simkin said, noting that he has a 15-mile commute to his office in Auburn each day. "There are much fewer parts to wear out. There's no muffler or oil to change ... and it's fun to drive."

The charging station on Lincoln Street has two ports and will be free to the public for the first six months.

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