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To many, the electric car is still iffy. But to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, it’s a known quantity: affordable, reliable and with plenty of performance.
De Blasio announced Tuesday that he’ll begin replacing about 2,000 of the city’s older gasoline-powered cars with electric vehicles at agencies such as the Parks and Recreation and Transportation departments. That’s about half the number of non-emergency vehicle’s in the city’s municipal fleet. He also plans to use alternative fuels and technologies to power heavy-duty trucks.
The city’s entire fleet, including emergency vehicles, numbers about 11,000 sedans and sport-utility vehicles. Emergency vehicles, such as those used by the Police and Fire departments, will continue to be powered conventionally for the immediate future because current electric versions don't meet New York's criteria.
“A cleaner, greener fleet is yet another step toward our ambitious but necessary sustainability goals,” de Blasio said in a statement. “By building the largest municipal electric vehicle fleet in the country – and potentially the world – New York City is continuing to lead by example.”
The initiative, called NYC Clean Fleet, will also limit the use of SUVs and will begin relying on anti-idling technologies in larger vehicles to reduce emissions in stop-and-go urban traffic.
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The emphasis on an electric fleet is the latest of several programs outlined by de Blasio to achieve his long-term goal of reducing the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent within 35 years. The electric car initiative alone is expected to reduce emissions by 50 percent by 2025, mayoral spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick said.
Of course there’s a cost to the program. It’s expected to need an investment of between $50 million and $80 million during its 10 years to ensure there are enough charging stations for the municipal electric fleet. But Spitalnick said fuel savings will help offset those costs as well as the higher price for electric vehicles.
Snags in the plan remain to be ironed out, however. First, the city must identify and secure space to set up recharging stations. Also, many municipal vehicles are used in consecutive work shifts, which don’t allow enough time between shifts for the long recharging necessary for electric vehicles. And some cars often need to travel distances farther than the range of most current electric cars.
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New York City now has about 300 electric cars in its government fleet, and isn’t the first U.S. city to adopt these alternative vehicles. Los Angeles, for example, also has bought electric cars for municipal use.
Still, de Blasio is said to be determined to make his city a model of energy sustainability. Spitalnick said the mayor plans to make New York’s fleet the largest in the country. And at least one student of the environment says NYC Clean Fleet is a laudable start.
“Moving toward electric vehicles is an essential part of the nation and the world’s agenda to fight climate change,” Professor Michael B. Gerrard, Director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, told the New York Daily News. “New York City’s action today is of great significance, both substantively and symbolically.”
By Andy Tully Of Oilprice.com
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Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com