New York City: If EVs Can Make it Here...
As that famous song about New York says, “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” And that applies to electric cars, because the Big Apple is an awesome challenge. If we keep talking about EVs as “city cars,” this is where they’ll have to prove themselves.
Although the outer boroughs have some private homes with garages, apartment living predominates, less than half the population even owns a car, and street-level parking is worth its weight in gold. That’s why wiring the city for EVs has focused on public lots and parking garages.
Not Many Chargers Now
So far, New York has 100 public chargers, which is not many for a city of more than eight million people. The challenge is particularly acute in high-rise Manhattan, which is quite populous (1.6 million) but also a place where nobody in his right mind keeps a car—vehicle storage equals rent in most other places.
In Manhattan, public chargers are mostly in garages or lots owned by companies such as Icon and Central Parking. CarCharging Group is one company that is installing New York infrastructure at its own expense, hoping for a payback as people plug in and pay for electricity at profit-making rates (currently 49 cents per kilowatt-hour, CEO Michael Farkas told me). So public charging commands a premium in the city.
The company currently has 25 to 30 chargers around the city, which means it operates a quarter of all available public infrastructure. Other companies have been slow to jump into this market.
Things may be looking up for EVs in New York. In an interview, Farkas praised Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his final State of the City address, in which he endorsed a plan to require new parking lots to prepare an unspecified number of spots for electric car charging. Specifically, owners would need to put in conduit so after the lot was constructed it could be easily wired for a charger. The details would have to be worked out with the City Council.
The city is also adding 50 electric vehicles to its municipal fleet, and putting in more charging for them, as well as a pair of fast chargers (one public). This is good news, but Bloomberg is leaving office and it’s uncertain if his successor will be as bullish on electrics.
Bloomberg’s record on green cars is largely positive, but on taxis it’s a bit mixed. He pioneered the introduction of hybrid cars into taxi fleets, but then launched the Taxi for Tomorrow initiative that got mired in politics and the letter of the law, and ended up selecting a non-hybrid Nissan.
Farkas says his company will expand its efforts in New York, and will shortly announce a major new initiative there. He says that Bloomberg’s focus on EVs in his speech helps, and the parking lot initiative would be a godsend. “It would make it much cheaper for us to roll out our infrastructure if the conduit is there,” he said.
New York is a modern city, but Farkas says that many of its buildings have antiquated electrical systems, which makes wiring more expensive. The positive side is that centrally located chargers are within reach of a surprisingly large number of EV owners. “We’re seeing expanded use of our stations,” he said.
So to any future EV planners in New York, the Bronx is up and the Battery’s down, and there’s enormous room for growth in an industry that is really just getting started.
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