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Buffalo pushes electric vehicle car charging stations in capital budget plan

The City of Buffalo's $1 million investment will be matched with much more in state and federal funding for chargers.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The City of Buffalo wants to move ahead with green energy technology as it proposes its new capital improvements budget.

2 On Your Side got some idea of how that will work and what the city has in mind.  

A Tesla car charger with an unusual indoor City Hall appearance took center stage at Mayor Byron Brown's $26 million proposed capital budget presentation as the city proposes spending $1 million with additional leveraged state and federal funding to add it and other types of chargers for electric vehicle owners around the city.

Mayor Brown told reporters: "Looking at a variety of different places like city parks. We already have some in some of the city parking ramps. We'll be looking at street locations. We will be looking at locations that will be on city facilities, so a variety of different areas." 

RELATED: Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in Western New York

Some will be be installed with necessary electric infrastructure starting next summer of 2023.

The city will survey residents and businesses to try to determine just how many of the electric vehicle chargers will be added through the years and where they will be placed with additional electric infrastructure to keep things humming.

Brown went on to say "we're trying to determine how many fast charging stations we would have versus the regular charging stations, so we do not have a ball park number right now. But that's all being evaluated."

And to clarify emissions free obviously does not mean the charging stations will be free. There was some fee discussion during the news conference.

Buffalo Strategic Planning executive director Brendan Mehaffey said: "There is a charge in our parking ramps at this point in time. I think it's 10 cents a kilowatt hour. Correct? So it's 10 cents a kilowatt hour as you charge, but it's still far less expensive than actually going to the gas station. But there are charges, and that will be part of what (city parking commissioner Raymond Wagner) and his internal team and others will be reviewing. What is the correct charge?"

The city will also try to analyze placement of certain types of charges.

"One of the ways for instance that's talked about is the actual economic development benefit of locating a fast charger in a place where people can spend money going to restaurants and doing some shopping while they're waiting for their car charge," Mehaffey said.

"That will probably change over time potentially as the charge goes from an hour to 20 minutes or 10 minutes, what have you. But those are the types of factors that we're looking at."

2 On Your Side also asked about the conversion of the city's vehicle fleet. Public Works commissioner Nathan Marton said they will obviously start with light duty vehicles and then as the battery and vehicle technology evolves look for more possibilities with larger vehicles. Obviously it will take some time to replace police cars, fire trucks and snow plows with their energy demands served by existing gas and diesel engines. 

We also raised the question of some reports of fires actually occurring with electric vehicles while they are charging or parked in a structure. It may not all that often but lithium batteries can spark very difficult to extinguish fires requiring what firefighters describe as "copious" amounts of water directed at the hard to reach underneath battery slab in the vehicles.

Parking commissioner Wagner says that has actually been discussed in conferences along with revised building codes by various city officials including the city fire department.   

Otherwise in the city's capital budget there are various equipment and structural improvements for city police, fire, DPW, and parks. There are also investments in cultural institutions like the zoo, history museum, libraries, and the Alleyway Theater.      

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