First Coulomb Electricity Pump Installed in New York

City aims to have charging network ready for first electric cars

2 min read
First Coulomb Electricity Pump Installed in New York

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.

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We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

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