Electric cars are steadily becoming more affordable as batteries drop in price — by 35 percent in the past year — while the mileage from a single charge is increasing. A problem with owning an electric vehicle (EV) has been lack of places to charge the battery outside the home, but Ulster County now has more public charging stations than any other county in New York State, said Seth Leitner of Sustainable Hudson Valley.
In a presentation at the Woodstock Community Center on December 10, Leitner outlined the benefits of owning an all-electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid, and Nissan salesman Robert Rolleri brought along an all-electric Nissan Leaf for test drives. The audience of 50 or so included both curious potential buyers and enthusiastic owners reporting their experiences.
I did get a chance to test-drive the Nissan Leaf. It drove like my Honda, steered and accelerated smoothly, and had the typical modern conveniences — power windows, sound system, Bluetooth — but was really quiet.
Sustainable Hudson Valley is seeking to organize an EV program similar to its Solarize initiative, which aggregated customers to obtain better prices for solar installations. The EV options will include leasing or purchasing.
The overriding reason to drive an electric vehicle is to benefit the environment, we’re told. All-electrics produce zero carbon emissions on the road. Plug-in hybrids run on electricity until the battery is depleted, then switch to a combination of electric and gasoline power, thus reducing emission of pollutants — while also reducing anxiety about the battery running out. Emissions are spewed by some of the utilities feeding the power supply used to charge EV’s, but Sierra Club says that even so, electric cars represent a major reduction in emissions pollution. In New York State, which has a large proportion of hydroelectric power, that reduction is potentially among the highest in the country.
Car manufacturers are producing more EV’s, with over 30 models now available from more than a dozen different brands. Among electric-only cars, the cheapest is the Smartcar, a two-seater that costs $25,000 and has a range of 68 miles per charge. The five-door Nissan Leaf, at about $30,000, can go 100 miles on a single charge. Chevrolet, Ford, BMW, Tesla, and other manufacturers are offering multiple models with different capacities and prices. Volkswagen, to make up for its blunder in falsifying emissions of its diesel cars, has committed billions to developing EV’s, including its all-electric E-Golf.
The federal tax credit for buying an EV ranges up to $7500, depending on the size of the car’s battery. New York State provides a tax credit of 50 percent on installation of a charging station, typically costing about $600. Add the savings from buying no gas for an all-electric car or reduced gas for a hybrid. Then consider that an all-electric has few moving parts, so it requires fewer repairs than a gas-powered car and no oil changes. Other perks include CleanPass program discounts on Port Authority bridges during off-peak hours and 10 percent off on E-Z Pass, unlimited use of HOV lanes on Long Island, and reduced rates for battery charging at night, offered by some utilities. All-electrics don’t have to pass state emissions inspections.
The sticking point may be that most EV’s get between 14 and 100 miles on a single charge, depending on the model. If you plug your car in at home overnight, the battery will fill up by morning, but what if your commute is long, or you’re heading out of town for the weekend? That’s a good reason to consider a plug-in hybrid, but if you want to go all-electric, charging stations are available and on the increase.
Ulster County has announced a push to build up EV-charging infrastructure as a boost to tourism and as a means of enhancing the county’s environmental record. Chargers have been installed at many government offices, SUNY Ulster, and SUNY New Paltz. According to solvingev.com, there are nearly 100 charging stations within 30 miles of Kingston, many of them usable free of charge. The New York State Thruway has four fast-charging stations — at the Malden, Plattekill, Modena, and Ulster rest areas — that take 20 to 30 minutes for a full charge, at a cost of $8. New York State offers substantial tax credits for businesses that install charging stations, a boon for employees who want to charge their cars while at work.
One hitch is that Tesla, whose cars have possibly the most advanced EV technology and a range of 200 or more miles, uses a different plug than all other brands. Tesla charging stations can’t be used by other cars and vice versa.
Leitner warned that dealerships are often reluctant to sell EV’s because their businesses rely on repairs to turn a profit. He offered a list of questions to ask a dealer when shopping for an electric car, including whether leasing is an option, and how to receive the tax credit. Also check on how long the car might take to arrive, since Chevrolet, for instance, is currently shipping EV’s mostly to California, where infrastructure is more established. By next spring, Chevy will have increased production to the point where its all-electric Bolt will be available in New York State.
New York State has committed to putting over 825,000 EV’s on the road by 2025. As prices continue to fall, car buyers will have an important decision to make.
For more information on electric vehicles, see wp.sustainhv.org. Solvingev.com and Plugshare.com show where EV chargers are located. Nyserda.Wattplan.com will help calculate how much money you can save with an electric car.