What NYC’s Electric Vehicle Plan Will Do About Emissions

AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, Pool

On Earth Day 2015, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced wholesale changes to the city’s sustainability plan (OneNYC) with a new goal of an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050. At the time, we pointed out electric vehicles’ role in that plan was undefined. With the UN Conference on Climate Change taking in place in Paris, de Blasio released the details on how New York would become the nation’s leader in plug-in municipal vehicles, reducing emissions from the city fleet by 80% as of 2035.

The program, dubbed NYC Clean Fleet (full report download), will replace 2,000 fossil-fuel powered sedans with electric cars and reduce the emissions of the entire city fleet by 9% in the next 10 years. Those vehicles represent half the fleet of vehicles used in non-emergency situations. Adding EVs and plug-in hybrids as gasoline and diesel vehicles are retired, the city aims to reach a 50% reduction in emissions by 2025, achieving the remaining 30% over the following decade.

Electric cars aren’t the only ones doing the heavy lifting in the NYC Clean Fleet plan. With diesel trucks from the Sanitation Department accounting for the lion’s share of city fleet emissions, the de Blasio plan is expanding the use of stop-start technology, anti-idling devices, and hybrid powertrains in medium- to heavy-duty trash trucks and other vehicles. Additionally, greener alternatives to traditional diesel, including compressed natural gas (CNG) and renewable diesel, will come into play.

However, the switch to electric power for non-emergency police work will have an enormous impact on the NYC fleet’s daily emissions. After the Sanitation department, NYPD vehicles account for the most carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide pollution, the city report showed.

Advocates for the environment, members of the New York State Assembly, and academics hailed the effort as groundbreaking.

A Nissan Leaf electric car is plugged in
Charging station on NYC’s Lower East Side | Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

“Mayor de Blasio’s plan to create the nation’s largest municipal electric vehicle fleet is a smart step along the road to a more sustainable transportation future,” said Eric A. Goldstein, New York City environment director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Gina Coplon-Newfield, director of the Sierra Club’s Electric Vehicles Initiative, called the program another of the city’s “bold climate commitments that will slash greenhouse gas emissions in NYC and serve as a model worldwide.”

Indeed, the NYC Clean Fleet program dwarfs the municipal EV commitment of even Indianapolis and Los Angeles, cities that currently rank first and second, respectively. Mayor de Blasio went so far as to say the fleet could potentially become the largest municipal electric vehicle fleet in the world.

We previously wondered when the city would put its lofty environmental goals into a concrete plan, and we have our answer. It’s important to note that city vehicles only account for 4% of citywide transportation emissions and 13% of government emissions. As for the other 96%, those would belong to private businesses and individuals.

You have to applaud Mayor de Blasio for setting the tone with the city fleet rather than enforcing laws on the private sector, thereby sidestepping accusations of “nanny” governance from special interest groups. Reducing the bulk of NYC emissions will continue to be the responsibility of individuals and business owners. To make it happen, city officials will work with the private sector to reduce the largest source of transportation pollution, the report said.

Source: City of New York website

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