New York Drivers Need an Electric Car Consumer Rebate

This post was co-authored by Kathleen Benedetti-Fisher, the New York representative for the Sierra Club's Electric Vehicles Initiative.

While New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced an important and much-needed phase-out of coal-fired power plants, New York has a way to go before it leads the pack cleaning up its transportation sector and supporting the transition to electric vehicles (EVs). While it has subsidized 500 of New York's 1,200 charging stations through its Charge NY program and recently proposed funding for 900 more, it is inching forward. New York has yet to join other northeastern states that provide crucial financial incentives for consumers: rebates. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Rhode Island offer a consumer rebate for purchase or lease of an EV. All this leaves the Sierra Club's newly assembled New York EV team wondering if 2016 will be the year New York can take the lead.

With a transportation sector that accounts for 34 percent of the state's greenhouse gas emissions, the commitment to build out EV infrastructure in New York is crucial. An EV can reduce transportation greenhouse gas emissions by more than 60 percent when compared to a medium-sized gasoline-powered sedan. Twenty-five percent of New York's electricity comes from renewable sources. As we bring more renewable energy online, EVs just get cleaner.

One of the best indicators that New York can lead in reductions is its Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) commitment. In 2013, Governor Cuomo signed on to be one of eight states supporting a ZEV Action Plan, coordinating to bring 3.3 million EVs onto U.S. roadways by 2025. He established basic EV incentives, such as offering high occupancy vehicle lane access to EVs, waiving emissions inspections, offering a 10 percent discount for highway passes and an income tax credit for up to 50 percent of the cost of charging equipment. Incentives for government fleets to electrify have also contributed the buildout of EV infrastructure. Overall, support for charging and operating EVs appears to remain a real commitment.

But what makes consumers buy plug-in EVs, as we've seen in the other states and cities where EVs are more prolific, is a consumer rebate of $2,000 to 4,000-ideally right at point of sale-that makes EVs more financially appealing than traditional gasoline-powered options. With more than six EV models under $30,000 available even before the $7,500 federal rebate, EVs are more within reach than ever. Range advances, averaging 80 to 125 miles per charge, lower fueling costs with electricity (even with low gas prices), and ultra-low maintenance costs make EVs not only a cleaner option, but a feasible option.

To make significant gains with climate change, we need to accelerate the number of zero emission cars on the road by supercharging incentives. With just 14,500 EVs on the road in New York, reaching the state's 850,000 ZEV goal by 2025 is a formidable challenge. We need more leaders like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who announced adding 2,000 EVs into New York City's government fleet.

We see the statewide consumer rebate as the key to boosting sales bringing New York closer to the safe zone as a serious emission reducer and clean transportation leader. We're looking forward to seeing additional leadership from Governor Cuomo that will clean up and electrify New York's transportation future.