• Apr 2nd 2013 at 5:00AM
  • 15
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been an arden... New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been an ardent supporter of electric vehicles and green driving (AP).
New York should be an ideal market for electric vehicles.

New York City should be an ideal market for

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  • Which brings a question: As industry leaders pursue a 54.5 miles-per-gallon Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard by 2025, does a one-size-fits-all electric strategy work for every city? Or do some places have different needs than others?

    "Each may develop its own unique needs for fueling and technology," said Ford's director of vehicle electrification and infrastructure Mike Tinskey. "The world has moved from cities designed around cars to mobility designed around megacities."

    City is unique, but the problem is not

    Outside the Jacob Javits Center, where the New York Auto Show is held, Ford, Nissan and Honda were among the automakers displaying hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric cars. There, employees answered basic questions about alternate powertrains for curious onlookers.

    The most common questions received, The New York Times reported, were about range. And for the past 100 years, since electric cars first were popularized at the turn of the 20th century, that's been the problem: Battery-powered cars provide finite range. That's, obviously, not a problem confined to New York City.

    "We still see range as the main issue," says Michael Omotoso of LMC Automotive, a global automotive forecasting company. Because of that, consumers see electric cars as a second- or third-car option in their family fleets.

    Range anxiety isn't the only concern. Charging time is another major roadblock. Automakers are finding even green-curious customers who do almost all of their driving within the car's range limit still like the option of a road trip -- one unencumbered by stops for charging.

    In recent months, it's become clear that electric cars aren't going to sell as well as people initially hoped. And there is growing skepticism that they'll ever reach the numbers that were first projected. Earlier this year, President Obama backtracked from a stated goal of putting 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015. The U.S. won't reach that number until 2017 – and that's only including plug-in hybrids – according to an estimate from LMC Automotive.

    Analysts see cause for both long-term optimism and concern over EV sales.

    When Toyota first launched its hybrid Prius in the U.S., the car faced similar skepticism and sluggish sales numbers. Hybrids, as a whole, took eight years to gain 2 percent of the U.S. market. Between October 2011 and October 2012, that number rose 60.6 percent to 3 percent of the overall market. Tinskey says the same pattern could replicate for mainstream acceptance of EVs.

    "It's a marathon and not a sprint, and our numbers show that," Tinskey said.

    During the first 18 months hybrids were on sale in the U.S. in the late 1990s, gas prices averaged $1.53 per gallon – not providing much motivation for consumers to try an alternative. Today, the national average retail price of $3.62 per gallon could provide more of an incentive.

    But there are just as many reasons other analysts believe the EV momentum has already been squandered. One big one the Prius didn't face? Competition from hybrids themselves.

    Omotoso projected that it would take at least a decade for electric cars to reach 1 percent of market share. Tom Stricker, vice president of technical and regulatory affairs for Toyota, is even more pessimistic.

    "There may not be a resuscitation," he said. "And that would be a second black eye to this kind of technology."

    Planning for the future

    Although New York already has approximately 100 public charging stations, including 30 in Manhattan, Bloomberg isn't hesitating to invest in an infrastructure that, at least for now, serves a niche market.

    He intends to make New York a national leader in green-driving technology.

    The city boasts an official website, Drive Electric NYC, that encourages motorists to drive electric cars. This year, the city will pilot a program that allows motorists to recharge their batteries in as little as half an hour. He wants to add 50 more electric cars to the city's fleet in 2013.

    This year, the city will pilot a program that allows electric-car drivers to recharge their batteries in as little as a half hour. He's attempting to make one-third of the city's taxi fleet electric by 2020 and has signed New York up to pioneer the country's largest bike-share program in the country this summer. Last month, Bloomberg joined fellow billionaire T. Boone Pickens and unveiled the city's first food truck powered by compressed natural gas.

    Of all his green-driving initiatives, adding 10,000 electric charging stations in a seven-year span would by his most ambitious by a long shot. But Bloomberg can't answer the biggest question looming: If he builds them, will drivers come?

    Pete Bigelow is an associate editor at AOL Autos. He can be reached at peter.bigelow@teamaol.com or followed on Twitter @PeterCBigelow.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 2 Years Ago
      plug in electric cars are only as efficient as the power generating complex. and in the USA as of now these generating capabilities are relatively inefficient. it takes more fuel to generate the electricity that is used in these plug-in' s than the fuel to power a hybrid.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I still have yet to see, what the cost is to charge one of these electric cars. The nanny mayor wants to put in place 10,000 charging stations. But he doesn't state the cost for the installation of these stations or what it will cost each driver to charge their vehicles. Is there a time limit they can have their cars charge so that others may use these stations? How long does it take to charge ones car? How long does the charge last? Will it last your ride home in the summer if you are using the air conditioning unit to keep cool in a traffic jam? Or will it provide enough power during the winter if you have the heat on and again, stuck in traffic. People in NYC are aware that traffic is a problem whether you are in a hybrid, gas or electric car. I think I will stay with gas operated vehicles for a while.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Yesssir, be right back....,We live about 1/2 way between Pittsburgh, Pa and Columbus,Ohio....either city is just over the range of an electric car ,,,,,they might be ok if you live in the city but out here in th e boondocks they won't work.We would need 2 autos here - 1 road car and 1 wind up toy
      • 2 Years Ago
      Let's see, .05% of cars sold in NY are electirc, but he wants to have 20% of the spaces outfitted with charging stations. Sounds like a money making scheme, since they will probably ticket vehicles parked in a charging space if they are gasoline powered.
      • 2 Years Ago
      but but the messiah says everyone should drive an electric car. good luck finding a parking space let alone A recharging station. but i am sure the politicians have no issues.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Wake me up when gas is $9.00 per gallon and I'll consider it. With hybrid (high voltage) batteries selling between $2,500 and $7,000, I can buy plenty of gasoline. I know that hybrid batteries are covered for about 7 years under warranty; but after that, you have a throw away car when the car needs a hybrid battery.
        • 2 Years Ago
        I wouldn't worry so much about replacement batteries. Their longevity has already been well established, particularly in the Toyota Prius. Some of those cars have reached well over 250,000 miles on the original batteries. Think of another, more plausible reason.
      • 2 Years Ago
      the next big industry will be a twist on the "tow truck". It is going to be a "charge truck". It will be nothing more than a generator and big extension cord to get you going again when you are stuck on side of road. The term "charge truck" will have more than one meaning as it "fills" your batteries, it empties your wallet.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Just build electric cars, and the people will buy them, because they are convinced that Green is good! I think that someone needs to rethink that idea. And where does the power come from to charge all these cars? Power plants! And just what drives a power plant?
      • 2 Years Ago
      Pete, have you ever been to New York City, and tried to park a car? Do you think 50,000 parking places would make a dent in the need for parking? Hopefully you fine a place early so you can spent about ten minutes to read the couple of sign that state the parking conditions you are parking under, or it might take you about anhour or two to fine your car in the impound lot. Happy driving, or happy parking.
      • 2 Years Ago
      mayor bloomberg has anointed himself KING!!!
      Ron Wizard
      • 2 Years Ago
      Owning a car in New York City is like taking your weekly paycheck to Las Vegas. You will lose big!
      • 2 Years Ago
      Most likely Mayor Michael Bloomberg is more concerned with the millions he donated to alter the outcome of a Chicago election or with his obsession over gun control to be concerned with something this insignificant and besides, he has to look after his self image, sob, snivel, snivel....................
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