Binghamton University’s M. Stanley Whittingham can add another notch to his belt following the governor’s State of the State address.

On Jan. 8, Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave his annual State of the State address in which he named Whittingham, a distinguished professor of chemistry and materials science and engineering, leader of the Blue Ribbon Task Force to expand the use of electric vehicles in New York. The task force will be co-chaired by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

The announcement comes three months after Whittingham was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in the development of the lithium-ion battery, an invention making the use of electric vehicles realistic. He is also currently the vice chair of the board of directors for the New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology (NY-BEST) Consortium, an organization whose mission is “to catalyze and grow the energy storage industry and establish New York state as a global leader,” according to their website.

“It is good recognition, not only for me, but also for Binghamton [University],” Whittingham wrote in an email. “I am hoping that the task force will enable the expansion of electrically powered vehicles in New York state and beyond. I want a task force that results in action, not just talk.”

BU President Harvey Stenger issued a public response to the governor’s address to comment on Whittingham’s appointment.

“First, we are very excited that the governor has chosen our very own distinguished professor and now Nobel Laureate Whittingham to lead a panel to create a road map for the future of electric vehicles in New York state,” Stenger wrote. “We look forward to supporting professor Whittingham as he works with the governor, NYSERDA and others around the state to advance this important initiative.”

The Blue Ribbon Task Force is just one part of Cuomo’s plan to combat climate change while continuing to grow the economy. He also plans to increase electric vehicle usage in upstate transit systems, increase electric vehicle charging stations throughout the state and make $100 million in financing available to attract and grow businesses working on clean transportation.

“People say you have to choose between a strong economy and a healthy planet,” Cuomo said. “Baloney. Nothing could be further from the truth. The economy of tomorrow is the green economy.”

In a public response to the address, SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson said the SUNY system can help fight climate change across the state.

“Consider the escalation of climate change, and our need to rapidly adjust where we get our energy and how much we use,” Johnson wrote. “We are excited that the governor has charged our Nobel Prize Laureate Distinguished Professor M. Stanley Whittingham to lead the panel to create a road map toward electric vehicles. SUNY is also well positioned to meet the governor’s ambitious energy goals and to provide ongoing research and training to meet the needs of the clean energy industry.”

While the plan is still in its infancy, Whittingham said there are companies in the Binghamton area already active in the electric vehicle sector. BAE Systems makes the batteries and power systems for hybrid electric buses, and The Raymond Corporation makes electric-powered forklifts. Moreover, Whittingham and Alicia Barton, president and CEO of NYSERDA, have already had a preliminary meeting at the governor’s mansion in Albany.

Cuomo said fighting climate change is a priority. BU will now have a hand in that fight.

“It is our responsibility to leave our planet cleaner and greener and more sustainable for our future generations,” Cuomo said. “We must, we can, we will. And we’ll start this year.”

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