At a Manhattan parking lot owned by Edison Properties--no relation to ConEd, by the way--Mayor Bloomberg and HUD Secretary Donovan unveiled today the first Coulomb Technologies charging station. Part of a $37 million program to deploy electricity pumps in 9 U.S. metropolitan areas, with $15 million coming from the Obama administration's stimulus bill, the station is the first of 100 to be deployed in the next months in the city's 5 boroughs. Quoting former mayor Ed Koch, who called New York the city where the future comes to audition, Bloomberg said he wanted the city to be ready by early next year when the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf hit the market.
The ChargePoint network of charging stations, conceived and built by Coulomb Technologies, is being deployed in cooperation with Chevrolet (because of the Volt) , Ford (with its forthcoming Focus and Transit Connect EVs), and Daimler, which is introducing an electric Smartcar. Housing Secretary Donovan, a former member of Bloomberg's city government, emphasized that the administration's support is part of a broad strategy of future job creation. He said that the next day, on July 15, Obama would be cutting the ribbon at a new car battery manufacturing plant in Holland, Michigan.
When Obama took office, said Donovan, there were no factories in the United States mass-producing batteries for EVs; now there will be nine.
Bloomberg, who calls himself a political independent, voiced appreciation and support for the Obama program but volunteered that the number of new jobs resulting from ChargePoint installation will be small in the short run. Pointing out that climate benefits from electric vehicles are highly dependent on the carbon intensity of power generation, I asked how much of New York’s electricity comes from zero-carbon sources; Bloomberg deferred to his sustainability chief, who said New York gets about 40 percent of its electricity from nuclear power and hydropower plants. While that's less than I would have guessed--which shows that you shouldn't just guess when you're calculating your personal carbon emissions--it does suggest that curbing air pollution is a better argument than carbon mitigation for promoting electric vehicles.
Passenger cars and light trucks account for about 15 percent of New York City's carbon emissions, and so it's easy to see that if 2.5 percent of them were replaced by electrics in the next few years, as a study deems possible, the impact on greenhouse gas emissions would be negligible. Even if all the internal-combustion cars are eventually replaced by electrics, the global climate benefit would be modest, whereas the reduction in street-level pollution would be dramatic.