MAHOPAC, N.Y. - The future came early to Mahopac last weekend.
On Saturday, Oct. 3, the organization Sustainable Putnam, in conjunction with the Mahopac Public Library, held an electric car show in the library’s parking lot in an effort to educate people about the technology and show them what the vehicles are capable of.
Joe Montuori, who helped found Sustainable Putnam earlier this year, said the group’s mission statement includes looking for projects that can help households, businesses and local governments reduce carbon footprints and lessen the impact of climate change locally, as well as develop a lifestyle that is more sustainable and resilient.
“If you look at the carbon footprint of people in Putnam County, the largest chunk of carbon emissions comes from driving,” Montuori said. “Buying an electric car is the single most significant thing that you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.”
Electric vehicles (EVs) are powered by lithium ion batteries and the price of those batteries has been dropping dramatically, Montuori said, becoming more powerful and increasing the range of the cars before they need recharging.
Montuori owns two EVs—a Nissan Leaf and a Chevy Volt.
“The range was around 70 miles when they first came on the market, and now it’s around 240 for the Nissan Leaf,” he said.
As EVs begin to proliferate, Montuori said the need for charging stations will increase, especially here in Putnam County.
“I would like to see it happen more quickly, but New York State is committed to installing thousands of chargers in the next two years along all of the throughways in rest stops,” he said. “Most people don’t realize it, but most shopping centers have chargers in out-of-the-way spots. Stop & Shop in Baldwin Place has a Level 3 charger, which is a fast charger, and so does Tops in Putnam Plaza in Carmel.”
Montuori said that he would like to see the town add some chargers to the Swan Cove/municipal parking lot project as it’s being developed.
“I think it’s in the best interest of our community to install more chargers in public spaces, like the library, which, by the way, is looking into it,” he said.” And in our parks, like Swan Cove. That would be a perfect spot. It’s a draw, because if I’m traveling through this area, and I see there is charger there, I’m going to stop and charge for an hour and maybe get something to eat or shop in one of the stores.”
Montuori said there are apps for EV owners to help plan trips and know where the chargers are located.
“Driving an electric car long distance does take some planning,” he said. “If you own a Tesla, in 30 minutes you can recharge. If I take my Bolt to Tops, in 30 minutes I can pick up 100 miles in range. I have a Level 2 charger, so when I go home at night, if my battery is low, which is about once a week, I plug it in and then overnight it’s fully charged.”
EV safety has improved over the years, as well.
“They are tremendously safe. If you have a major collision with an electric car, there’s not going to be any fire or explosion,” Montuori said. “A Chevy Volt has a Level 5 safety rating—the highest you can get. And EVs tend to have more electronics, like computer-guided cruise control, lane-assist warning, backup cameras. They are just as safe or safer [than a gas car] and they have much lower maintenance costs. There’s just 20 moving parts. There is very little to break.”
Lance Wong drove his Tesla all the way down from Brunswick, near Albany, to attend the show and tell people about electric cars.
“I bought the Tesla to save on gas, but after I owned it for a while, everything else came into view,” he said. “It’s also about the amount of energy, CO2 and air pollution [you can reduce]. [Air pollution] is a really big deal and a lot of people don’t think about it. It’s linked to just about all major chronic diseases.
“After I bought this, I said I would never buy another gas-powered car again,” he added.