OpEd: NY Must Bolster Direct Sale of Zero-emission Vehicles to Address Climate Change

electric vehicle
A BMW M plug-in hybrid electric vehicle is seen during the media day of the 41st Bangkok International Motor Show on July 14, 2020. (REUTERS/Jorge Silva)

By Richard Schrader, Northeast Director of Policy for the Natural Resources Defense Council

In New York, transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gases, responsible for more than 28% of statewide emissions. The problem has been exacerbated by the pandemic, with many previously carless New Yorkers opting to purchase a personal vehicle over the past 18 months. But New York missed a massive opportunity to give consumers a cleaner, zero-emissions alternative to fossil fuel burning vehicle ownership because of a meaningless and outdated prohibition capping the number of electric vehicle (EV) sellers that can do business in the State of New York.

The Natural Resources Defense Council applauds the Governor’s climate initiatives in combatting climate change and protecting public health; it was especially encouraging to see Governor Hochul pledge to invest $4 billion for the landmark Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act in her 2023 Budget proposal. This bill will contribute to climate change mitigation projects, reduce pollution, and lower carbon emissions. However, the Governor should act right now on our climate crisis by eliminating the unfair and outdated cap on direct sales of electric vehicles (EV) in New York law.

For far too long, electric carmakers such as Tesla, Lucid, and Rivian, have been prohibited from expanding direct sale of their zero-emission vehicles in our state. Currently, New York only permits five of these stores to operate statewide. Not only does this arbitrary restriction delay the State’s efforts at addressing our urgent climate crisis, but it also hinders New York’s economy by limiting competition and options for consumers while dramatically slowing electric vehicle adoption as compared to other states.

On a federal level, President Biden’s historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which includes building out a national network of EV chargers, will support a nationwide network of 500,000 EV chargers and accelerate EVs on the road. With these implementations, New York will be able to reduce emissions, improve air quality, and create good-paying jobs. As the nation is moving the needle on these critical implementations, New York will have the infrastructure in place, but no EVs to take advantage of this system due to the cap issue.

Florida, a state without any zero-emission incentives but also no direct sales cap, saw 60% higher electric vehicle sales than New York in 2020, and currently has nearly twice as many electric vehicles on the road. In California, a state with similar pollution and carbon emissions targets, EVs already represent nearly three percent of cars on the road, whereas New York EVs have stalled at 0.69%.

The statistics are clear: to make Governor Hochul’s clean transportation vision a reality, New York must allow electric carmakers to sell directly to consumers. There’s no time to wait if New York wants to address this climate urgency.

This oped first appeared on amNY.com.

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