Op-Ed | NYC is charging forward

Photo by Kevin Duggan

New York City is in the midst of one of the most important transitions of our generation. It’s the pursuit of electrification, renewable energy and a cleaner, zero-emission city. Indeed, we’re making major environmental improvements across the city, from increasing our renewable energy capacity to reforming building emission requirements. But one area has lagged behind despite ample technological progress: our streets.

The electric vehicle (EV) transition seems to be in full swing, but our city is stagnating. While nationwide more than five percent of car owners are choosing EVs, out of about 2.25 million vehicles registered in the five boroughs, under one percent of them are electric. It’s even worse in the for-hire-vehicle industry, with slightly over 600 EVs out of roughly 95,000 active licenses — 200 of which are part of Revel’s all-employee rideshare service. 

The disconnect is charging access, especially to fast, public charging where drivers can pull in and fuel up in minutes, not hours. There are currently only 71 public fast charging stalls across 15 active sites in the city, and just four have more than three stalls. There are legitimate concerns over charging confidence as a result, because if even one stall becomes unavailable, wait times can spike. The low capacity also means these sites are neither prepared for nor encouraging more EV adoption. 

More troubling than the chargers we do have are the ones we don’t. Unsurprisingly, the communities that have been historically overlooked for new transportation development are again the last to get EV infrastructure. There are zero fast charging stalls anywhere in The Bronx, Upper Manhattan (outside Randall’s island) and many of the neighborhoods in deeper Queens and Brooklyn not close to the airports. Yet these are the communities that would benefit the most from cleaner air, helping reverse decades of adverse health effects caused by pollution like asthma. Citywide, on-road transportation accounts for nearly 12 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, and pedestrian proximity to tailpipes makes those emissions all the more dangerous.

Drivers, whether they use their vehicles for work or personal use, won’t transition to EVs unless they can reliably and conveniently charge them. Without home garages to plug in like most everywhere else, New York City needs an immediate overhaul of its public fast charging access so everyone has the choice to go electric.

In 2021, Revel opened North America’s largest public fast charging station in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn with 25 fast charging stalls. But that site, our flagship Superhub, was only the first step. This week, we announced we’re making the biggest investment to date in New York City’s EV future by tripling the number of public fast chargers, a total of 136 more stalls. Those will be spread across five new Superhubs: the first-ever public fast charging site in The Bronx, the largest public fast charging site in the Western Hemisphere in Maspeth, Queens, two more sites in Brooklyn and one on the Lower East Side. Like Revel’s flagship Bed-Stuy Superhub, the five new sites will be open 24/7 and accessible to any brand of EV.

Revel is excited to see the EV transition really unfold as the majority of these sites come online in 2023. To make sure it takes shape for all New Yorkers, we must continue lowering barriers to EV use, including increasing tax credits even more for lower-income consumers, allowing more direct-to-consumer sales, giving incentives for for-hire-vehicle operators to transition their fleets such as an EV exemption to congestion pricing for rideshare and medallion holders, and of course, creating more public charging access. 

For us to reach our emissions reduction targets, electric vehicles cannot be a luxury item. In a dense city like New York, that means addressing vehicle affordability and charging equity simultaneously. Revel’s charging network expansion will help move adoption forward, but the work is not done. Nevertheless, NYC is following the right road, soon we’ll be doing it in an EV.

Haley Rubinson is Vice President of Corporate Affairs for Revel.