Electrifying NYC – What’s In the Way?
Owning an electric vehicle (EV) in New York City is more than just a personal choice–it’s a public statement towards building a sustainable future for the city and beyond. As passionate advocates for the environment and innovation in the bustling metropolis, we recognize the broad benefits of NYC operating as ‘beacon’ city to model. However, big obstacles are holding back the widespread transition to electric vehicles, and access to charging infrastructure is the most prominent one.
With a staggering 1.9 million registered vehicles in NYC, only a mere 2% are electric. While this figure has seen a slight increase in recent years, it’s hardly the rapid growth needed to achieve the emission reduction targets for 2030 and beyond. Despite the emergence of more affordable EV models, manufacturers like Tesla and Ford slashing prices, and attractive federal and state tax credits, many New Yorkers are still reluctant to make the switch due to the scarcity of accessible and reliable public charging stations.
The glaring necessity to build a robust EV charging infrastructure is evident but executing such a task in a densely populated urban environment like New York is far from simple. Though City Hall is making strides, the current scale of progress –with plans for only 100 curbside chargers and 50 fast chargers –pales in comparison to the projected demand by 2030, which could reach thousands.
In addition to public initiatives, the city can encourage private investments in charging infrastructure by leveraging the Taxi & Limousine Commission’s authority. The issuance of For-Hire-Vehicle (FHV) licenses exclusively for EVs, alongside the 1,000 new EV-only licenses released earlier, could be a game-changer. Given their significantly higher mileage and charging requirements, electric FHVs represent the ideal customer base for charging operators. Not only do they hold the potential for the same emissions reduction impact as three private EVs, but they also offer an attractive market for charging station operators.
To expedite EV adoption among FHVs, a straightforward approach would be to prioritize electric FHVs by converting any of the nearly 5,000 stored licenses, set to expire in August, into EV-only licenses. This move would lead to a rise in the proportion of EVs in the city’s rideshare fleet, thereby reducing the industry’s overall emission footprint quickly. Simultaneously, maintaining the FHV vehicle cap ensures a balanced approach to transportation while encouraging charging station investments.
Several companies have already taken on the task of building charging infrastructure in NYC, but the efforts are still in their early stages. Notably, Brooklyn-founded Revel leads the pack with 40 public fast chargers spread across two high-volume locations, with plans to install hundreds more over the next couple of years. Other significant players like Tesla, Blink, and ChargePoint have also installed EV chargers in various neighborhoods. The convenience of fast charging, allowing EVs to recharge in minutes rather than hours, proves essential for busy FHV drivers who need to maximize their earning potential.
Despite these promising developments, several barriers persist in the transition to EVs for FHV drivers, including long-term vehicle financing and leasing commitments on gas-powered vehicles, as well as the relatively high upfront costs of purchasing new EVs, although government subsidies are gradually mitigating this issue. However, above all else, the urgency lies in the need for more extensive public charging infrastructure to ensure equal access to electrification for all New Yorkers, regardless of their access to at-home charging options.
Mayor Adams’ visionary commitment to electrifying the rideshare industry by 2030 has positioned New York City as a frontrunner in EV adoption and urban climate policy. This presents a tremendous opportunity to eliminate more than 600,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually, specifically targeting tailpipe pollution from vehicles operating in immediate proximity to pedestrians, homes, parks, and playgrounds. Such pollutants have been found to be among the most harmful particulates for public health, with a Harvard study attributing nearly 1,400 annual deaths in New York City to pollution from buses, trucks, and cars – accounting for about 75% of the state’s total despite the city having less than half the population.
By accelerating FHV electrification, we can kickstart our charging infrastructure development and transform EVs from a commitment to a convenience for all New Yorkers. This would not only benefit residents, but also showcase to the world what the future of zero-emission mobility looks like, setting a powerful example for other urban centers seeking to improve air quality and sustainability for generations to come.