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USA: New York Leads on E.V. Issues, but E.V.’s Have Yet to Follow


Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, on July 12, 2011, after announcing the addition of 70 plug-in vehicles to the city’s fleet.
A new study places New York among the world’s most proactive cities trying to ease the way of electric vehicles, but leadership has its pitfalls.

The study (PDF) was produced by the Rocky Mountain Institute, an energy research group and think tank, along with partners including the International Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Ministerial’s Electric Vehicles Initiative. The study examined 16 cities and regions to gauge their readiness to absorb E.V.’s. Ben Holland, program manager for the Project Get Ready, an initiative of the Rocky Mountain Institute, described the EV City Casebook as “a global snapshot of electric vehicle deployment.” The study makes a strong case that cities are taking innovative steps to encourage E.V. adoption, but it also includes estimates of the actual cars on the ground that indicate very few motorists have taken advantage of the accommodations.

The EV City Casebook notes that 50 percent of Manhattan car owners park in assigned spaces, making these drivers good candidates to buy electric vehicles, as they could conceivably have access to charge points. But according to city data, less than 22 percent of Manhattan residents own cars. To date, the EV City Casebook said, there were just 238 plug-in vehicles in New York municipal fleets and in private hands. In a telephone interview, Adam Freed, deputy director of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s office of long-term planning and sustainability, said there were 70 highway-capable purely electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles operated by the city, including 50 Chevrolet Volts, 10 Ford Transit Connect vans and, on loan, 10 Navistar eStar medium-duty trucks.

Places to plug in are on the rise. Ari Kahn, policy adviser in the mayor’s office for electric vehicles, said in an interview there were 64 public charge points in Manhattan, compared with 41 gas stations. “Access to charging is really improving, so that’s good news,” he said.

Most of the dedicated car parking in Manhattan is in commercial lots, not private residences, which prompted the city to convene a half-day symposium last spring to educate commercial garage owners about electrics. Next month, the city will start an as-yet-unnamed campaign as part of a recently announced regional electric-vehicle partnership (PDF) with Boston and Philadelphia. The aim, Mr. Freed said, was to educate consumers about electric vehicles and to “create the critical mass to attract more of the automakers’ cars to the Northeast.”
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