Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to wire one-fifth of new parking spaces in New York City for electric vehicles would “force the private sector to build charging stations for a fleet of cars that don’t exist and probably won’t exist for years to come, if ever,” energy analyst Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Institute writes in today’s New York Post.

The basic problem, Bryce says:

The city can be as “wired and ready” as Bloomberg likes, but he can’t make consumers buy electric cars. More important, he can’t overcome the basic physics that have prevented battery-powered cars from being anything more than a tiny niche player in the global auto industry.

But Bloomberg isn’t the only New York leader with an electric-car fixation. Governor Cuomo’s latest State of the State message featured his own massive state-policy push for plus-in vehicles (PEVs), based largely on the assumption that the main obstacle to greater private take-up of electric cars is a lack of charging stations.

Cuomo’s solution: “$50 million spent over five years, including funding from the New York Power Authority (NYPA), NYSERDA, and tax credits to create a statewide network of 3,000 public and workplace charging stations, and funding primarily from investor-owned utilities for incentives for PEV deployment.”

It’s estimated that only 35,000 PEVs have been sold nationwide, half of them in California. Yet, incredibly, Cuomo’s State of the State projects that “with the adoption of a  supportive set of policies, the number of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) on the road in New York State could increase from less than 3,000 today to 30,000-40,000 in 2018 and one million in 2025.” [emphasis added]

The governor’s faith in a shaky technology isn’t supported by ongoing developments in the real world, where the practical and economic shortcomings of PEVs remain obvious. The state’s last big plunge into directly subsidizing construction of electric cars — a 2009 deal promoted by the Paterson administration — ended up in a dead-end of lawsuits, fortunately before any state or local tax subisides had been spent. Recently, a New York Times columnist kicked up something of a ruckus in the electric-car world when he ran out of juice while test-driving a luxury all-electric Tesla in cold East Coast weather.

Cuomo’s State of the State includes a commitment to “educating consumers and policymakers about the benefits of PEVs,” on the ground that “many drivers currently have only a vague understanding of plug-in electric vehicle.” In other words, the state government needs to step in and convince New Yorkers that an expensive and tiny vehicle with limited range, especially in cold weather, belongs in their garages.

He’ll face an uphill battle. Despite massive federal tax subsidies for PEVs and relentless promotion of electric vehicles by Hollywood celebrities, consumers just aren’t buying plug-in cars like the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf.  The vast majority of self-consciously “green” drivers prefer hybrids, which outsell PEVs by a 30 to 1 margin, and which don’t need recharging stations.  And even at that, hybrids account for barely 3 percent of all sales.

As Bryce sums it up:

The history of the electric car is a century of failure tailgating failure. The problems haven’t changed in 100 years: All-electric vehicles, or EVs, have little range, take too long to refuel and cost way too much.

These facts aren’t really in dispute, and the “basic physics” cited by Bryce as PEV limitations won’t change. Yet, at a time when capital resources are scarce, the State of News York wants to spend $50 million of utility revenues and tax subsidies (i.e., money that originates, ultimately, with all of us) on vehicles almost none of us want.

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is Empire Center's founder and a senior fellow.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

You may also like

The Public Can Now See the Vaccine Task Force Recommendations that the Cuomo Administration Held Back

Even as Governor Cuomo touted vaccine approvals by a state-appointed panel of experts, his office was withholding the group's detailed findings from public view. The governor's six- Read More

New York’s Medicaid and Public Health Crises Get Short Shrift in the New State Budget

In spite of an ongoing pandemic and spiraling Medicaid costs, New York's health-care system received surprisingly little attention in the new state budget. On issue after issue, law Read More

Empire State’s new budget is a bridge to nowhere

Looking ahead to an uncertain post-pandemic recovery, New York’s newly enacted state budget for fiscal year 2022 raises spending by staggering amounts that—barring an unlikely rapid return to peak 2019 economic activity in New York City—can't possibly be sustained for more than a few years. The budget is a mid-2020s fiscal disaster in the making: an incomplete bridge over a deepening river of red ink. Read More

Lawmakers Mull Medicaid Proposals That Would Speed New York Toward a Fiscal Cliff

As a budget deal nears in Albany, reining in spiraling Medicaid costs seems to be the last thing on anyone's mind. Governor Cuomo is advancing only Read More

Tax hike and huge spending increase seem likely in next NY budget

New York state today began its 2022 fiscal year without an adopted budget—which, in itself, is not a big deal. The state government can continue to pay bills and employee salaries next week if either final appropriations Read More

Cuomo Pushes Budget Change Sought by Hospital Group Implicated in Pandemic Scandals

A hospital lobbying group at the heart of scandals plaguing the Cuomo administration is again getting the governor's help in pushing a late change to the state budget. Aides to Gove Read More

The Cuomo Administration Is Withholding Pandemic-Related Records Again

In an echo of the Cuomo administration's stonewalling on nursing home data, the governor's office has for a third time delayed releasing records of its vaccine review panel, this time until mid-April. Read More

Cuomo’s Schedules for the Peak of New York’s Pandemic Show Limited Contact with Outside Experts

As New York's coronavirus pandemic exploded last spring, Governor Cuomo's circle of regular contacts dwindled to a handful of close advisers, according to his recently released official schedules for March and April. Read More

Subscribe

Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100
Fax: 518-434-3130
E-Mail: info@empirecenter.org

About

The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

Empire Center Logo "...the Empire Center is the think tank that spent months trying to pry Covid data out of Mr. Cuomo's government, which offered a series of unbelievable excuses for its refusal to disclose...five months after it (the Empire Center) sued, Team Cuomo finally started coughing up some of the records." -Wall Street Journal, February 19, 2021

SIGN UP TO READ ABOUT THE ISSUES IMPACTING NEW YORKERS.