The electric vehicle charging station installed behind Smithtown Town Hall...

The electric vehicle charging station installed behind Smithtown Town Hall will no longer be free to use starting in July. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

It was a good ride, but electric vehicle drivers who have powered up for free since the 2019 installation of the Smithtown Town Hall charger will have to pay a small fee starting sometime in July.

David Barnes, the town’s Department of Environment and Waterways director, said the 12 cent per kilowatt-hour fee authorized by the town board on Tuesday will work out to about $5.50 to fully charge a 259-mile range Chevrolet Bolt like the town has in its own fleet, and about $7 to fully charge a 353-mile Tesla Model 3.

"We are trying to start this rate as low as we possibly can just to cover the actual electric costs," Barnes said.

The town’s Level 2 chargers take about four hours to power a battery. While drivers can find free or subsidized charging elsewhere on Long Island, Smithtown’s fee is "quite a bit cheaper" than some charging stations and cheaper too than gasoline, he said.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority grant that funded Smithtown's charger purchase requires the town to provide drivers free electricity for two years; so far, the town has spent about $2,000.

About 12 to 25 different drivers use the Town Hall charger in a typical month, a number Barnes said was small but would grow as more electric vehicles appear on Long Island roads in the next five years.

The town’s resolution will immediately impose fees for a charger the town built at its own expense in Kings Park late last year; it will also cover fees on chargers planned for the other town hamlets, including one bound sometime this year for the parking lot planned on Lake Avenue in St. James, at the site of the former Irish Viking bar.

Long Island is New York State’s biggest market for electric vehicles, and the 15,872 registered here last year accounted for almost a third of the 53,859 electric vehicles registered in the state, according to an advocacy group, Drive Electric Long Island.

Barnes said officials would continue to promote electric vehicle use with purchases for the town fleet, which include three electric vehicles and one plug-in hybrid used for code enforcement and other official business.

The town’s draft comprehensive plan, scheduled for a spring town board vote, encourages installation of charging sites for new multifamily construction and large commercial construction.

Ronald Gulmi, chairman of the infrastructure subcommittee for Drive Electric, said other towns including Oyster Bay, East Hampton and North Hempstead have installed or are planning to install charging stations, along with some of the large businesses along the Route 110 corridor.

Smithtown has "taken a leadership role," he said. "They’re an early adopter, and I'm sure they’re going to continue to enhance their program."

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