New York City Plans Massive EV Charging Network

Installing charging stations is a central part of efforts by the Biden administration to increase EV adoption.

Northeast's Largest Public Electric Vehicle Fast-Charging Station Opens At JFK Airport
Spencer Platt / Getty Images

In a bid to slash carbon emissions, New York City plans to build one of the largest electric vehicle (EV) charging networks in the United States, with tens of thousands of charging ports.

EVs are a rarity in the streets of New York, but under the Electrifying New York plan that the Mayor’s office unveiled last week, there will be 400,000 EVs registered in the city by 2030, up from just 15,000.

For that to happen, the city needs to build a charging network of 40,000 curbside chargers (up from just 1,400) and 6,000 DC Fast Chargers (up from 117) in less than 10 years.

When it comes to EV adoption, New York is miles behind Los Angeles, a city that has four times as many registered EVs and roughly eight times as many chargers.

But last week, New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Hank Gutman said change is coming.

“With the climate crisis upon us, it’s time to plan bigger about how New York City can dramatically accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles,” Gutman said. “With major federal investments in EV charging on the horizon, our plan lays the groundwork for a network of tens of thousands of public EV chargers equitably distributed across the city, enabling many more car owners to go electric.”

Expanding the current charging network is a key part of efforts to increase EV adoption across the U.S. The Biden administration envisions a five-fold increase in the number of public EV chargers nationwide, to 500,000. The federal government is expected to allocate billions of dollars to EV charging infrastructure and in a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, New York City officials noted that the city would need federal funding to build a sprawling charging network.

The city wants to leverage federal funds to spur private investment in EV chargers since most of the charging infrastructure will be installed by companies that would eventually profit by charging drivers for electricity.

Earlier this month, The New York Times reported the lack of charging stations is holding back EV adoption in the U.S. There are around 110,000 public chargers in the country, compared to more than 200,000 in the EU and over 800,000 in China.

Experts told the Times that the U.S. needs to see a 10-fold increase in the number of charging ports before EVs become mainstream but the rollout of new chargers is not happening fast enough.

“Private investors are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into building chargers, but the business suffers from a chicken-and-egg problem: Sales of electric cars are not growing fast enough to make charging profitable,” the article said.

Zero Emissions Goal

When car sales peaked last year due to the pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio urged New Yorkers to choose cleaner forms of transportation.

"My advice to New Yorkers is, do not buy a car. Cars are the past. The future is going to be mass transit, biking, walking, and there's so many options right now. And there'll be more and more as we go forward. I'm never going to own a car again,” de Blasio said.

His administration wants to promote walking, mass transit, and biking so that their share of total trips increases from 66% to 80%. To that end, the city plans to build more pedestrian-friendly streets, expand existing bus lane and bike lane networks, and provide more support for initiatives like Open Streets.

According to the blueprint unveiled last week, all these policies would allow the city to reduce transportation emissions by 85% by 2050.

The city’s plans were boosted last week when New York Governor Kathy Hochul banned the sale of new combustion engine passenger cars and trucks in New York State by 2035 and approved a new rule that the Sierra Club said would help “to slash diesel emissions, improve air quality, and spur the electric truck market.”

"The new law and regulation mark a critical milestone in our efforts and will further advance the transition to clean electric vehicles, while helping to reduce emissions in communities that have been overburdened by pollution from cars and trucks for decades," Hochul said.