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The county’s director of energy conservation discusses the current state and bright future of electric vehicles in Westchester.
Expanding the use of electric vehicles has long been on the county’s to-do list, as evidenced by a piece of legislation that County Executive George Latimer introduced in 2020. “The legislature is pretty innovative,” says Peter McCartt, director of Energy Conservation and Sustainability for the Office of the County Executive. “Anytime that we are constructing or doing work on a garage or a parking lot, even just repaving, 20 percent of the spaces have to be allotted to electric charging.”
This focus on electric vehicles (EV) extends well beyond parking lots. “We also have legislation requiring that whenever we replace a vehicle in our fleet — and we have 1,100 vehicles — that we buy an electric vehicle.” McCartt says that such vehicles can be either all-electric or plug-in hybrids, which use EV batteries in tandem with gasoline.
These government initiatives have, according to McCartt, positioned Westchester in an excellent spot relative to other state counties. “We are way ahead of any county in New York State,” says McCartt. “In fact, we were helping Nassau, Suffolk, and Albany counties with their procurement of electric vehicles. We have over 120 electric vehicles, and that’s not even including our busses, all of which are either electric or electric-hybrid.”
However, this doesn’t mean that every vehicle in the county’s fleet can quickly and easily be transitioned to EV alternatives. “The issue is that with many of our vehicles, there just is not an electric model for that type of use,” says McCartt. “Things like heavy trucks, dump trucks, backhoes.” But McCartt isn’t raising the white flag. “In fact, we have on order five all-electric Ford F-150s. They are very hard to get.”
Indeed, drawbacks such as these don’t seem to be slowing down the county’s mission. “We want to electrify everything. We want to electrify our buildings; we want to electrify our vehicles; we want to be on electricity because we are going to be getting all this renewable energy soon,” says McCartt, pointing to several solar and offshore wind farms that are currently nearing completion.
McCartt and the county are also moving forward on new initiatives. “We are in the process of adding 262 EV charging stations across the county.… We have already installed about 60, and those are predominantly in train-station parking lots and at county golf courses,” he says. In fact, McCartt says that there are now at least two EV charging stations at each county golf course.
“Over the next three years, we plan on adding a total of 500 charging stations. We have mapped out the aging of our fleet. The cars that aren’t electric now will eventually be electric, and we have to have charging for them,” says McCartt, who notes that the state’s 2022 Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act is also set to provide $500 million to subsidize electric school busses. “Electric school busses are so important because kids don’t need to be sucking in those fumes while the busses are idling during the winter to keep warm.”
“We have over 120 electric vehicles, and that’s not even including our busses, all of which are either electric or electric-hybrid.”
—Peter McCartt, director of Energy Conservation and Sustainability for the Office of the County Executive
And the county’s push toward a greener future won’t stop there. “Another portion of this is that we are looking to give incentives to municipalities,” says McCartt. “We can only put [EV charging stations] on the county’s properties, which are mostly the parks or administrative buildings. So, what we would like to do is come up with an EV charging grant program for the municipalities, although the incentivizing details on that have not been worked out yet.”