Early Adopters Lead New York City’s Electric-Car Revolution

With a load of financial incentives and a growing network of charging options, NYC ranks among the top cities in the United States for electric-car ownership.

When you think of places where electric cars are a thing, Los Angeles likely comes to mind. Or Silicon Valley. Or Portland, Oregon. But you may be surprised to know that New York City ranks among the top cities in the United States for EV adoption, thanks to a strong set of financial incentives and a rapidly growing network of publicly accessible charging options. Moreover, the city is home to an outsized population of early “early adopters” whose enthusiasm for EVs is pushing them quickly into the mainstream. If you’re thinking joining the plugged-in generation this year, here are some points to ponder.

The Incentives

Electric vehicles are typically a bit more expensive off the showroom floor than a comparable gasoline-powered car, but an EV purchase or lease can set you up for some significant payback, including a $7,500 federal tax break and a New York State EV rebate as large as $2,000. Moreover, there are toll discounts and HOV-lane exemptions for EV drivers on the Long Island Expressway. And two area utility companies, Con Edison and National Grid, offer charging discounts for EV owners. These time-of-use discounts kick in during hours when the power grid has extra capacity — late at night or early in the morning, exactly when most EVs are plugged in and charging up for the next day.

The Infrastructure

PlugShare, a crowd-sourced global map of charging stations, is an essential resource for EV owners — and a useful education for aspiring owners. On the web or via excellent iOS and Android apps, PlugShare reveals some 350 charging stations in New York City, the vast majority of them in public parking garages. Manhattan below 125th Street is blanketed by stations, and Brooklyn Heights and Williamsburg are well-covered, too. And the number of options is growing, thanks in part to a state tax credit of 50 percent, up to $5,000, of the cost of buying and installing a commercial charging station.

The Experience

Electricity isn’t free, but it’s cheaper than gasoline. And without things like oil changes, engine tune-ups, or emissions testing to consider, the case for the electric car gets even stronger. A recent University of Michigan study found that the average annual operating cost of a new gasoline-powered car is $1,117. The cost to run an electric car? $485. The tradeoff is range: Even the best new electric cars will struggle to match the cruising range of comparable gasoline-powered car, so you’ll find yourself thinking about plugging in more often than a gasoline driver thinks about filling up.

The Downsides

As a country, we’re still relatively early in the electric car story, and despite NYC’s growing charger network, charging options outside the city are more limited than they are along the West Coast. As such, longer trips will have to be carefully planned. And electric cars — or, more to the point, electric-car batteries — don’t like winter very much. According to the American Automobile Association, an EV’s cruising range can drop by 12 percent when the outdoor temp is 20 degrees — and that’s without using the interior heater. Turn on the heater on and range can suffer by as much as 41 percent.

The Cars

Tesla is still the image leader in high-end EVs, but as the California-based carmaker’s novelty factor ebbs among early adopters, a new crop of luxury electric vehicles has begun to steal headlines. With show-car styling, a healthy 394 horsepower, and a starting price of $69,500, the acclaimed Jaguar I-Pace is the poster child for the next-gen EV. But rivals are afoot. In the coming months, expect the debut of the handsome Audi E-tron and Mercedes-Benz EQC crossovers, along with the scintillating Porsche Taycan sedan and the futuristic BMW i5 crossover. And Swedish carmaker Volvo makes its move next summer with the Polestar 2, a $63,000 battery-electric sport sedan aimed squarely at the popular new Tesla Model 3.

(Jaguar Land Rover)

This story appears in the 2019 edition of The Luxury Collection magazine, The Corcoran Group’s annual celebration of exceptional homes in New York City.

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