Electric cars great for suburbs, not for cities

Because of a lack of charging stations, most U.S. metro areas are not electric car-friendly.

Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters/File
A battery charger sign for electric cars is painted on the ground at a parking lot in Wolfsburg, Germany.

At first glance, electric cars seem particularly well suited to urban driving.

Trips are typically short enough to quell range anxiety, and stop-and-go traffic gives drivers plenty of opportunities to make use of regenerative braking.

Meanwhile, everyone else likely appreciates the lack of engine noise and exhaust fumes.

But in the real world, urban electric-car drivers can still face more than a few challenges.

New York City is not considered particularly car-friendly by most people, but it's especially ill suited to electric cars, argues a recent New York Daily News op-ed.

After spending a day driving a Chevrolet Volt around the Big Apple, columnist Gersh Kuntzman concluded that New York isn't ready for electric cars.

The main issue was the lack of charging stations.

Many New Yorkers don't have private garages or parking spots, so home charging often isn't an option as it is for suburban electric-car drivers.

On-street public charging stations are very rare in New York City, and while stations exist in off-street garages and parking lots, they aren't exactly common either.

Parking spaces are just as valuable as any other real estate in densely-settled New York, so finding an open space with a charging station requires a bit of luck in any case.

Assuming you find an open space at the charging station, you'll have to pay the parking fee—which can be as high as $10 an hour or $60 a day—while you charge, as well as the cost of the charge itself.

Tesla drivers have an advantage here, because the carmaker has deals with several parking companies to install 240-volt Level 2 AC charging stations at garages in the borough of Manhattan.

These "destination chargers" augment Tesla's more-publicized Supercharger DC fast-charging stations by providing plugs at locations where drivers are more likely to make long stops.

The charging-infrastructure situation should gradually improve for all electric-car drivers, including an increasing number of charging stations at worksites with their own parking lots.

In 2013, New York City passed a law stating that 20 percent of all new parking spaces will have to accommodate electric-car charging.

For now, though, New York electric-car drivers may have to deal with a bit of inconvenience.

Ultimately, whether it's a city or suburb, adequate charging infrastructure is needed to support widespread electric-car adoption.

City dwellers may just feel the need more acutely.

This article first appeared at GreenCarReports.

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