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Company Plans to Make Lamp Posts Into EV Chargers

DAVID MARQUES, HOST: When it comes to encouraging people to drive electric vehicles, New York City’s got a problem. The city needs a lot more public chargers. It has slightly more than 2000 places to plug in cars. One young New York company thinks it has a solution to make charging easy and accessible almost anywhere in the city. Mark Gilchrist met the founders and brought back this report.

MARK GILCHRIST, BYLINE: The company is called “Volt-Post.”

It just got 1.3 million dollars in investment.

On a recent rainy afternoon, I got together with several of its founders next to a lamp post on Broadway.

(SOUNDBITE Bang, Bang, Bang….)

GILCHRIST: CEO Jeffrey Prosserman bangs on the metal of the street lamp post… because this is his big idea.

JEFFREY PROSSERMAN: “We are looking to retrofit lamp posts across the country into EV chargers in order to democratize access across all communities.”

GILCHRIST: In his vision, a lot of the street lamps in NYC would be retrofitted to become charging stations for cars.

Once we got out of the rain, Jeffrey’s partner…. Luke Mairo explained why Volt Post’s approach could be a winner for the city.

LUKE MAIRO: Luke Mairo: We think that this is an ideal solution to get federal money to work with municipalities and different public sector participants to be able to pay for some of the hardware to make this as cheap as possible for the municipalities that we deploy in.”

GILCHRIST: New York City’s Department of Transportation owns 250 thousand light posts that could be turned into chargers. That’s a lot. One downside, though, is the 4 to 8 hours each lamp post would need to fully charge a car.

Luke says that he expects that sometimes people would want fast chargers and go to a central location like a gas station. But sometimes they wouldn’t want to go to the bother and just want a little juice.

MAIRO: Luke Mairo: Our proposal is much more for the urban environment where curbside charging makes much more sense in our opinion.”

GILCHRIST: IT might make sense, but can it ever really happen in NYC?

NILDA MESA: “None of this stuff is impossible, but, you know, it will be complicated.”

GILCHRIST: Professor Nilda Mesa teaches at Columbia…. And was recently the Director of the NYC Mayor’s Office for Sustainability. She says the proposal may work technically, but politically it might be seen as taking away parking spots.

MESA: Parking is like the 3rd rail for a lot of governments because there is such a lack of free parking on streets. And, it also becomes very controversial, particularly in residential neighborhoods if they think that people are going to be coming in from outside.

GILCHRIST: And, then there’s also the issue of whether New York’s electricity grid can handle the huge increase in electricity demand expected from a steep rise in EVs on the roads. And if you think parking is controversial in the city, try building new power plants.

Mark Gilchrist, Columbia Radio News.

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