Energy Transition New York

The EV dilemma of New York City: where will I charge my EV?

The EV dilemma of New York City: is there space to charge my EV? 

Electric Vehicles (EV) are on the rise in the North East region of the United States, in late October the Governors of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut and New York - (among 8 states in total) signed a pledge to put 3.3 million EV's on the road by 2025. This is part of an ongoing effort by New York State to lower car tail-pipe emissions, stimulate innovative businesses and economic growth and diminish dependency on fossil fuels. 

One of the biggest obstacles for large-scale consumer adaptation is range anxiety. While average distance for most drivers is within the battery range of electric vehicles on the market, range anxiety creates a barrier to buying an electric car. From a technology perspective range anxiety can be solved in three ways; bigger battery capacity better communication towards the consumers through mobile technology, or by creating easy access to charging stations. All these have a considerable price tag. If we focus on electric vehicle charge stations the question arises who is going to pay for the hardware. and who is allowed to create revenue over the provided services?   

The Obama administration tried to break through this with the EV Everywhere program, but did not meet expectations. However things may change as we see a steady rise of EV chargers put in place (link to DOE site). On the plugin website it shows that NYC has about 160 public accessible chargers and 3 DC fast chargers.

New York faces the same challenges, but (as always) is a bit different. Ultra urban Manhattan has only limited space available on the curb. Furthermore, car ownership is low in Manhattan and the neighborhoods in Brooklyn adjacent to the east river. Moreover, the city is actively promoting to get rid of your car, use public transport and join a car sharing program. While I support this strategy, I do think curbside charging is going to be necessary in certain New York area's. Regardless of the incentives people are still going to buy a car, so we should do everything possible to make sure that they buy an electric car. For instance, the majority of car owners in Brooklyn and the Bronx do park on the street, but do not have a designated parking space on private property. Servicing those people could give a big boost to New York city EV ownership beyond the occasional Tesla Model S.

New York in this case has some similarities with Amsterdam and other Dutch cities. They too have limited space in the city and promote an anti-car policy, however they also see the benefits of an electric vehicle (most notably local air pollution, when EVs go in great numbers). Let’s compare it to Amsterdam. The city has almost a 1000 public level II charging stations 8 public level III fast charging stations and about 500 private charging stations. To reach this impressive number Amsterdam has used a progressive strategy to implement EVs. For instance, its customer segmentation in the beginning was fantastic; the city center in Amsterdam has a huge parking problem, to get a parking permit you have to wait up to 8 years, while paying for parking is about 5 dollars per hour. So people who got an electric car would get a parking permit instantly and the city would place a charging station within 100 meters from your house and provide you with free energy between 2008 and 2011. This was a temporary offer but people in the city with sufficient means raved about it and quickly the Tesla Roadster became an inhabitant of the city precious canal district. 

This campaign generated a lot of publicity for EV's as parking is a huge problem in Amsterdam. Afterwards, the city set out an request for proposal (RFP) to install 1000 public Level II chargers. The RFP comprised of certain crucial areas, for instance;


1. Revenues were allowed to be made by the owner of the charge point 

2. The owner of the charge point should adhere to an open standard to allow EV's with another service provider to access the station 

3. The charger could only be installed upon request by an EV owner and thus limiting the time a charging station stood idle

4. The energy provided must be renewable energy

This amount of public chargers also made the Car2Go project possible. The widespread availability of charging stations made it possible to let loose 300 electric Smarts in the streets of Amsterdam. Now everybody could drive an electric vehicle and support for electric vehicles is widespread throughout the city. 

So what could New York learn from this: 

1. Only install an EV charger when there is an electric vehicle owner living nearby to uphold support for EV chargers

2. Install the framework for EV chargers, through the RFP, but do not provide services to the end-user 

3. Public chargers are more expensive than private chargers in parking lots, so stimulate the placement of chargers in private areas (as it has done for new parking lots).

4. Help organizations like Zipcar to place more EVs, in order to increase the number of people that has driven in an EV to stimulate consumer awareness.

5. Adhere to an open model for EV charging to remain competitive (a later blog will dive into this topic)

6. Facilitate the placement of Level III/fast chargers in areas where a high number of EVs (could potentially) pass, this will greatly reduce Range anxiety and commuters will start using the EV

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