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Charging Forward: An Open Letter To The Next Mayor of New York City

Dear Eric Adams,

I am a Brooklyn dad who leased an electric car at the start of the pandemic because I was concerned about the possibility of exposing my toddler to COVID on the subway. Buying an electric automobile didn’t just seem like a good health measure for my family, it was also a choice to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid air pollution.

While searching for parking on city streets, I quickly realized other New Yorkers won’t drive electric without public charging. I discovered there were pitifully few places to recharge my car, and that the only options were in paid parking lots. Public charging is a necessary development for electric cars to be a practical alternative to gasoline-fueled ones.

Through sea level rise, soaring temperatures, intense storms and more widespread flooding, greenhouse gases are choking the future of our city’s children. Transportation in New York City adds more than 15 million metric tons of greenhouses gases into the atmosphere every year. During your term as mayor, you must accelerate the transition to electric transportation in order to save New York.

A Tesla charging station in New York City.
A Tesla charging station in New York City. Photo: Paul Sableman

Officials claim 20 percent of the two million vehicles in NYC must switch from gas to electric by 2030. Currently, the total stands at less than one percent. In order to achieve a pathway to net-zero emissions, Bloomberg reports that 60 percent of new car sales must be electric over this period. Meeting that ambitious goal requires an infrastructure overhaul and bold leadership.

We know that a scarcity of charging stations is a major barrier to electric vehicle adoption. Of the 1,600 chargers in NYC and Westchester today — which is nowhere near sufficient — most are located behind the paywalls of expensive parking garages. This overpriced option is simply out of reach for most New Yorkers. Of the more visible options, Tesla effectively commands a charging monopoly by owning over 70 percent of NYC plugs. So, city drivers that own an electric car made by any other automaker have far too few charging options.

This lack of convenient and affordable charging prevents many New Yorkers from pursuing clean transportation options. Since over half of cars in NYC park on the street, drivers need public charging near their home to make buying an EV practical.

Last March, London Mayor Sadiq Khan partnered with the private sector to pilot retrofitting lamp posts into chargers. There are now plans to deploy 50,000 lamp post chargers across the UK to get people to drive electric. New York should pursue a similar lamp post charging strategy for dense urban streets.

In September, the NYC Department of Transportation announced plans for a public charging network with 40,000 chargers and 6,000 fast chargers. Officials say this must rise to 220,000 public chargers by 2050. Meanwhile, research in Europe and China suggests we need one public charger for every 10 EVs.

In spite of setting targets, NYC public charging is simply not growing fast enough. To spur the electric mobility transition, you must rapidly increase public charger deployment that blends into the fabric of NYC neighborhoods. We need your bold leadership to fast-track building an equitable charging network. Without an increased commitment, New York has no chance to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

This charging network would increase fueling availability, city revenue, and local jobs. The city must leverage data to determine charger sites and build a resilient system similar to the CitiBike rollout. Policymakers must reconsider right of way and parking regulation. Without brisk action, NYC may sink.

This data-driven charging network must also prioritize equity and safety, requiring inclusive planning with feedback from residents. NYC agencies must work together to align transportation and energy carbon reduction performance metrics. As more electric cars hit the streets, you must also exclusively support turning on renewable power generation. Completing this energy transition will truly enable zero-emission transportation.

You have eight years, two terms, and one shot to meet clean transportation targets. From the moment you take office, you must double down on NYC public chargers and democratize access. What will be your legacy? Let’s charge forward to create a more resilient and sustainable future for my son and all New Yorkers.

Jeffrey Prosserman is a graduate student in Columbia University’s Sustainability Management program and founder and CEO of Voltpost, a company that retrofits lamp posts into electric vehicle chargers.

Views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Columbia Climate School, Earth Institute or Columbia University.

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2 years ago

I leased a Chevy Bolt last sp6for similar reasons and have had the same issues as you are. Please contact me if you are interested in forming a group to meet with city and state officials to improve the EV infrastructure. Thanks for your article.