We have shown Edison's electric cars many times on TreeHugger, but EVs are not much use if you don't have a place to charge them. So the New York Edison Company rolled out a charging infrastructure that looks pretty good. James Ayre of EV Obsession writes: "I’m actually a bit surprised at how comprehensive the charging network was at the time — though, granted, the island was much less densely populated at the time, so finding locations to place stations was probably a much simpler affair."
It is indeed a comprehensive network, with charging stations spread out throughout Manhattan, right up through Harlem to the top of Broadway. It even extends out into the Bronx.
I think it is interesting to compare it to the Tesla charging stations shown on the Tesla site. These are destination charging stations, where Tesla "partners with hotels, restaurants, shopping centers and resorts to make charging when you arrive at your destination as simple as charging at home. Pull up and plug into a Tesla wall connector to charge Model S while you shop, dine, or even during an overnight stay."
There isn't a single station shown above 96th Street; Evidently Tesla drivers don't venture north of the Museum district. Unlike Edison's network, which is relatively evenly spaced, the Tesla network seems to follow the money.
The Plugshare map, a directory of all different kinds of charging stations rather than just Tesla, is a little bit better. But apparently you don't want to run low on juice north of Central Park in your Leaf either.
Interestingly, if you live in lower Manhattan it is a lot easier to find a charger than it is to find gas; the high price of land has squeezed gas stations out of the market. The gas stations sort of start where the charging stations stop, up around the top of Central Park.
TreeHugger has previously quoted a 1916 source that listed a reason electric cars did not catch on:
The failure of [power companies] to make it easy to own and operate the electric by an adequate distribution of charging and boosting stations. The early electrics of limited speed, range and utility produced popular impressions which still exist.
It seems we are repeating that mistake. Right now you have to be pretty rich to drive a Tesla, so it makes sense that the chargers are located where rich people hang out. Perhaps that will change as the cost of electric cars continues to drop. But right now, it doesn't look particularly fair and equitable. Why am I surprised?