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EXCLUSIVE: EV adoption slow in the Finger Lakes, so grid build-up will happen over years

  • / Updated:
  • Josh Durso 

As of June, the state DMV reported that more than 150,000 new electric vehicles had been registered in New York. Nationally, forecasts anticipated 14 million new EV’s hitting the road this year. Those are both big numbers, but contextualizing the data as the state pushes for more adoption and improved infrastructure is crucial.

Out of the 150,000+ new EV’s registered in the first half of 2023 — 26% were accounted for in two downstate counties (Suffolk and Nassau). Meanwhile, adoption rates in the Finger Lakes are much lighter and more manageable. 

Christina Ficicchia, Manager of Smart Grid Programs at AVANGRID, says the growth observed around much of the state is akin to a “keeping up with the Jones’,” scenario. “You’ll see one person in the neighborhood get an EV and all of a sudden — the entire neighborhood is adopting over the next couple years,” she explained. “The grid isn’t going to have issues with that kind of adoption — presently or in the future.”  

According to the state Department of Motor Vehicles, the smallest counties across the region — many of which are located here in the region — have seen significantly less adoption. There were 22 new EV’s purchased in Schuyler County, 61 in Seneca County, 72 in Ontario County, 83 in Wayne County, 94 in Yates County, and 105 in Cayuga County. 

Ficicchia says NYSEG and RG&E are being more thoughtful about how it plans for adoption, and what might need to happen within these ‘spot loads’ as neighborhoods adopt as cohorts. While there’s a lot of emphasis on electrifying transportation — residential and industrial building is also trending in that direction. Some of which is being emphasized by legislation at the state-level. 

When AVANGRID thinks about how the grid can best handle this overall electrification — all three components are front-of-mind. Including how to best disperse more EV charging technology.

Focusing on vehicles, though, there are a number of factors that contribute to the lower EV adoption rate in rural areas. One factor is the lack of charging infrastructure. Rural areas tend to have fewer EV charging stations than urban areas, making it more difficult for people to charge their vehicles. Ficicchia says that’s not really a problem, though. “It’s more of an issue when we’re thinking about those fast chargers that are going up on the Thruway, or someone like Amazon, or the U.S. Postal Service wanting to electrify their entire fleet — and having a depot in the middle of one of our rural service areas,” she explained.

DiSanto Propane (Billboard)

NYSERDA is working to install more EV charging stations in rural areas, and the state has also launched a program to provide financial incentives to businesses and individuals who install EV chargers. Another step is to make EVs more affordable. The state and federal governments offer a number of financial incentives for EV ownership, such as tax credits and rebates. These incentives can help to reduce the upfront cost of purchasing an EV.

All told, Ficicchia says one of the bigger misconceptions around EV’s or EV adoption across the board involves the volume of travel happening on a daily basis. “Most of us probably go 30-50 miles per day,” she said. “At most, there are scenarios where people commute further, but even those that are, doing a round-trip of 100 miles per day, can charge overnight sufficiently.” 

This means, charging during off-peak hours, and on a slow-charger overnight at home. As for the idea that charging stations will become as common as gas stations — that’s unlikely, at least in the short-term.