New York Supercharges Electric Vehicles Through Major Charging Program

To act on climate, reduce toxic tailpipe pollution, and protect public health, we have to plug in almost everything that moves—and we are going to need lots of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure to do that. 

New York just approved a program that supercharges efforts to put that infrastructure in place. 

Last week, the New York State Department of Public Service (NYSDPS) approved a $701 million program that will greatly expand publicly accessible EV charging across the state. The order is a big leap forward for electric vehicles, paving the way for New York to meet its commitment of having 850,000 zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025 and to reduce pollution from the transportation sector, which makes up over a third of emissions in the state. 

The scale and coordination of this program are unprecedented. No other state has developed a unified statewide program to be implemented across utility service territories and sized to support all of the public charging infrastructure needed to hit its 2025 zero-emission vehicle commitment. This type of comprehensive approach, which matches public charging infrastructure investment to the scale of electric vehicles necessary for climate commitments, offers an example for other states to follow.

Projected net benefits of these investments will be massive: $2.6 billion for New Yorkers. And the program is designed to guarantee that 20 percent of each utility’s budget is directed to charging infrastructure within 1-2 miles of a disadvantaged community, with a number of components targeted at directing innovative electrified transportation solutions to environmental justice and low- and moderate-income communities as well. In these communities, utilities will cover up to 100 percent of infrastructure costs for publicly accessible chargers.

The order is the product of years of work and collaboration. In February 2018, a diverse collection of more than 40 environmental NGOs, environmental justice groups, labor unions, EV drivers groups, and charging infrastructure companies led by the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council submitted a petition to the New York Public Service Commision asking it to open a docket to establish requirements for utility support for EV charging infrastructure programs. At the time, New York was lagging behind other states in enlisting utility support for electrifying transportation. 

The continuing advocacy of the petitioners during the past two and a half years, both within and outside of the docket, has borne fruit in the recent Commission order. Now, New York is positioned as a national leader in EV utility investment.

The approved program is expected to support the development of more than 50,000 public charging stations across the state. Although still focused on passenger vehicle charging, the final order adds a number of programs intended to support electrification of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles in response to recommendations from the Sierra Club and its allies.

These include fleet assessment services, a fleet-charging infrastructure program, and money for collaboration with transit agencies in Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, and Westchester to help electrify transit fleets in those cities. These investments will provide important air quality improvements for the communities most heavily burdened by vehicular air pollution.

Running our cars and trucks on fossil fuels is one of our nation’s biggest barriers to combating the climate crisis. Moving to the next generation of vehicles—electric vehicles—requires bold leadership from all levels of government, from local to federal. At a time when federal leadership is sorely inadequate to protect the well-being of our communities, we are hopeful that states can lead the way.