Let’s Go! Seamless Electric Car Network Developing on Eastern Seaboard

In the midst of dire reports on climate change, real progress is happening with the transition to a low-carbon society. Are we really going to hell in a handbasket? Maybe. But maybe not!

For instance, consider this report that aired on WAMC-Albany public radio last week. We’ve re-published the text in full below but want to stress how groundbreaking this truly is. 

Six east coast states are now collaborating on developing a seamless way for electric vehicles to travel across them. Thousands of charging stations will be installed. And the six east coast states have been joined by California and Oregon on the west coast.

The eight states will also be working on making electric vehicles more affordable to consumers. How many more states will join them?

No information yet on how many of the charging stations will be solar powered, but that is the next step in making our car culture far more sustainable. Think about the impact zero emission vehicles will have on lowering CO2 and air pollution levels, especially during the summer months.

Eight State Plan To Promote Electric Vehicles Released

by Pat Bradley, North Country Bureau Chief, WAMC

An eight state bicoastal alliance released an action plan today with the goal to have 3.3 million zero emission cars on the road by 2025.

New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, Maryland, Oregon and Rhode Island signed an agreement in October of 2013 to reduce greenhouse gas and smog-causing emissions by changing the transportation sector within 11 years. The Multi-state ZEV Action Plan released Thursday will develop policies, standards, infrastructure and sales of zero emission vehicles in the eight participating states. It includes 11 key actions including increasing the consumer market, providing consistent standards, enhancing incentives, and removing barriers to retail sales of the vehicles.

Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz says the plan outlines key inter- and intrastate actions to build robust ZEV markets in the states. “It reflects our recognition in the state that it’s important to our public policy. It’s important to our local economies. And it’s important if we’re going to meet our greenhouse gas reduction goals. Accelerating the ZEV market is going to enhance energy diversity. It’s going to save consumers money. And it will promote economic growth in our states.”

The plan highlights the removal of barriers to charging and fueling station installations. It also promotes access and compatibility of the plug-in charging network. NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Assistant Commissioner Air Resources, Climate Change and Energy Jared Snyder says the states are already coordinating efforts. “This action plan commits all the states to support the roll out of charging infrastructure. In New York, the governor’s Charge NY program commits to have a statewide infrastructure of 3,000 public charging stations within five years. That build out is taking place.
“This is Rob Klee, the Commissioner from Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Connecticut has built out our network of charging stations to where we’re at about 90% coverage of the entire state. So you’ll be no more than 20 minutes or 20 miles from a charging station. That has been a key part of our governor’s comprehensive energy strategy is to make the range anxiety not an issue here in Connecticut.”

“This is Christine Kirby from Massachusetts (Department of Environmental Protection). We have invested quite a bit of money in charging stations as well. One key component of the action plan is to make sure that we’re coordinating on DC fast charging with our neighbor states so that we will have a seamless transition from one state to another.

California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols says the plan represents a change in the fuel infrastructure and the action plan outlines measures to overcome challenges. “We’re competing with a one hundred year old infrastructure that people are used to when it comes to putting gasoline in a vehicle. So making the charging experience as easy and simple is the task.”

Zero Emission Vehicles are plug-in hybrids, battery electric and hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles. As of April, nearly 200,000 had been sold nationwide.

Electric Car Sales Projected to Grow in NYS, Despite Battle in Albany

This story was updated on March 30th.

The electric car, long dismissed as too expensive and impractical, has been the center of a fight in the corridors of Albany. A deal struck by Governor Cuomo on friday to resolve the dispute now awaits approval by the state legislature.

New York environmental groups, auto dealership lobbyists and legislators have battled it out over whether luxury electric car manufacturer, Tesla, can sell directly to consumers.

A bill forcing Tesla and other automakers to sell to consumers through licensed dealerships only gained significant traction in the state assembly this year. The legislation, sponsored by Rochester Democrat David Gantt, has been presented as an attack on the electric car.

On Friday, Tesla reached an agreement with Governor Cuomo and the state’s car dealership lobby which would “allow it to keep five existing company-owned stores, as long as it doesn’t open more direct sale outlets in the state”.

But no matter what happens in Albany over the next few days, New York is positioned to become one of the leading U.S. markets for electric cars, surpassed only by California, say analysts.

Trying to Reach New Customers

Tesla reaches consumers through its network of stores and service centers, which are mainly concentrated on the east and west coasts. The company has five stores in New York, including one in Manhattan.

The legislation currently under review by lawmakers would have closed Tesla’s stores. Similar legislation was just passed in New Jersey.

“New York is a state that’s committed to sustainability, clean energy, energy security, on a level you don’t find every place across the country,” Tesla Vice-President Diarmuid O’Connell stated recently, according to the New York Daily News.

“It’s deeply ironic there is a movement in the [New York State] Assembly to shut down … an all-American company that makes cars in the United States and supports sustainable transportation,” O’Connell added.

Because traditional dealerships are independently owned, electric car advocates fear that many of them will not be willing to take a chance on electric cars. Selling plug-in electric vehicles [known as PEV’s or EV’s] requires charging stations, specially trained personnel, and other additional expenses.

Those fears do not seem totally unfounded. Last month, Inside EV’s reported that over forty percent of Cadillac dealers had opted out of selling the [Cadillac] ELR, a luxury hybrid, “due to low return on investment.”

Projected to Grow

Despite challenges faced by Tesla and other electric car manufacturers, nearly 2.6 million plug-in vehicles will be sold in the U.S. between 2013 and 2022.

And California, New York, Washington, and Florida will likely lead the way in sales says Navigant, a firm which analyzes global clean technology markets. Almost 150,000 electric vehicles will be sold in New York over the next decade.

Much of the demand for electric vehicles will come from New York City and four major urban areas in California. Together, they will account for nearly one-third of U.S. PEV sales by 2022, reports Navigant.

EV’s are steadily becoming more affordable. The cost of an electric car’s lithium battery -a major component of the sticker price- will continue to drop, says the Department of Energy.

EV purchasers can apply for a $7,500 federal tax credit. And in New York State, they may also be eligible to drive in New York’s HOV lanes and receive up to a 10 percent E-ZPass discount.

Making Room for Electric Cars

The Bloomberg administration must have read the same projections. Electric cars are part of the former mayor’s sustainability blueprint, PlaNYC. Bloomberg’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability even had a staff person dedicated to promoting electric car use.

Mayor De Blasio’s office did not respond to questions from NYER about electric cars. But before leaving office, Mayor Bloomberg laid the groundwork to eventually make 20% of the city’s parking spots “plug-in ready” over the next decade.

New York City has an estimated 200 electric-car charging stations at the moment.

A law passed in December by the City Council, which amends the city’s building code, will create approximately 10,000 plug-in ready parking spots, with 5,000 available over the next 7 years.

“Powered by Sunshine”

The next step, say environmentalists, is to re-charge electric cars with solar power, further minimizing their impact on the climate.

Solar powered EV charging stations are already in use throughout the country. And New York State has embarked on a multi-year expansion of its solar power capacity. Will we start to see solar powered charging stations on the New York State Thruway, or on Coney Island Avenue? Stay tuned.