One of the distinguishing features about the new ShopRite in Niskayuna has nothing to do with what’s inside the store, but with what’s outside in the parking lot.
There are four parking spots painted green near the entrance at ShopRite, but odds are most shoppers shouldn’t be parking there. These spaces are “reserved” for electric cars, but the two silver terminals looking like shrunken gas pumps are actually 240-volt charging stations. Located near the store entrance, the spots are in a prime location and the electricity flowing into an electric car is also provided for free.
Town officials had requested an effort be made to include such parking spots, which now are the first being offered in Schenectady County.
Niskayuna officials said the charging stations fall in line with green steps the town has taken recently.
“We asked ShopRite to do it for one big reason: It kind of is a continuation of all the things we are doing in the town in terms of sustainability and energy savings,” said Councilwoman Denise Murphy McGraw. “How could we have now what is one of the premier locations in our town not kind of be part of that agenda?”
“At a public place where you can shop … this is the first one that I have seen,” Supervisor Joe Landry said. “We are very happy also that GE participated.”
Shannon DeFreese of ShopRite said it was nice to be a part of something important to the community.
“It is part of ShopRite’s go green initiative. As well, we are trying to incorporate that into the reusable bag program and the composter we have in the back,” said DeFreese.
There are two outlets on each charging station, allowing for two separate cars to charge from the same unit. The stations do have directions listed on them saying to use a credit card to pay for the service, but ShopRite doesn’t plan on charging shoppers and will eat any electric costs.
McGraw said the initiative is important to set a precedent and encourage other retailers within the town and Schenectady County to install similar technology.
Christopher Gardner, attorney for Schenectady County and a Niskayuna resident, owns a Chevrolet Volt, which has a 10-gallon gas tank to supplement an electric charge that lasts 40 to 50 miles. Gardner estimated he saved around $240 on gasoline per month since owning the car.
“I think this is probably the first public charging station in Schenectady County. I think you are going to see more and more people getting the electric vehicles too, so it is a great idea,” Gardner said.
What led Gardner to purchase the car was his two visits to Alaska, and noticing how far the Mendenhall Glacier retreated on the second visit, which was a year after his first look.
“The second year it had retreated another three-quarters of a mile or so and that kind of stuck in my mind that global warming is a real phenomenon and we all need to do things to deal with it,” Gardner said. “It is great that ShopRite is promoting people buying these types of vehicles and I think it is a nice addition to the store.”
Garnder said to fully charge the battery is estimated to cost $1.50 each day. Being able to add a little more “juice” to his vehicle is a “little added incentive” to patronize ShopRite. The 240-volt charging station could fully charge his car in three to four hours. At home he only has a 110-volt charge running into his car, so it takes seven to eight hours to charge.
As far as keeping the spots “reserved” for only electric vehicles, ShopRite is hoping the community will respect the designation. Unlike a handicap spot, there is no legal recourse.
There appears to be more reasons people haven’t seen electric charging stations popping up throughout the Capital District besides the associated costs.
According to Michael Murr, service manager for Lia Nissan in Schenectady, state law prohibits anyone except utility companies to charge for electricity. This would mean legally ShopRite doesn’t have much recourse except to eat the costs associated with the charging stations.
Also, Murr added infrastructure investments in the state are lagging behind others in implementing electric charging initiatives.
“The great state of New York is lagging in the back,” Murr said. “[Nissan] said that New York wasn’t up to speed with the electrical installations as the other states were.”
Before being contacted by The Spotlight, Murr said he wasn’t aware the new ShopRite had electric charging stations installed, but he was pleased to find out.
The Nissan Leaf is the latest green offering from Nissan, and is 100 percent electric. Unlike Gardner’s Chevy Volt the Leaf can’t rely on fuel as a backup plan. Having charging stations to ease a customer’s fears about running out of juice is vital, Murr said.
“Having a car that you can plug in while you are shopping is beautiful,” he said. “Because we are such a ‘fast food society,’ I am just wondering on their patience. Is somebody really going to be patient to see the battery recharged?”
In time, Murr believes consumer habits may change to accommodate charging needs, but maybe charging time won’t be a real issue in the near future.
“I’m sure somebody is going to come up with a way to make it faster and more economical all in one shot,” he said.