Is the NY Area Seeing an Explosive Growth in Electric Car Ownership?

News Brief by Kip Hansen — 7 March 2023

Robin Shulman Agüeros, a freelance journalist, offered us her opinion in a news article in the New York Times titled “Why the New York Area Is Seeing an Explosive Growth in Electric Cars”, published 5 March 2023 in the “New York” section of the paper, both online and  in print (under a different headline).

She gives us her lede:  Ownership rates of electric cars have more than doubled in New York City and the surrounding area, propelled by more varied models, more charging stations and lower prices.”   Doubled when? Over what period?  “…over the past several years”.

I have to admit that Shulman seems to write the way I do….not sticking to a single  topic, but finding something that piques her interest and diving in.  It seems that Shulman’s interest may have been piqued by a data report from Atlas Pubic Policy’s EV section.  Or, at least, that is her information source for the EV ownership data.

And Atlas?  Atlas Public Policy (“Atlas”) was founded in 2015, by Nick Nigro, a nationally known expert on alternative fuel vehicle financing, policy, and technology. Nick previously led the development of several complex financial and policy analysis tools, convened large groups of diverse stakeholders nationwide, and managed a comprehensive analysis of greenhouse gas mitigation from U.S. transportation.”

Atlas is, unashamedly apparently, an information hub for those advocating the uptake of electric vehicles in the United States.  Atlas hosts the EVHub:  “The objective of EV Hub is to bring a data-driven approach to policy-making around transportation electrification and accelerate market growth.”  And when they say “bring a data-driven approach to policy-making” they mean advocacy and lobbying.

Shulman’s article is pretty good, though a little preachy.  She avoids totally sugar-coating EVs.  She notes that “while electric vehicles have become cheaper, they still cost about $60,000 on average.”  She does not tell readers that this is more than any of the six cheapest Mercedes-Benz SUV models and more than the Mercedes-Benz sedans in the A, C, and E classes. 

And she quotes Michelle Krebs, an executive analyst at Cox Automotive, a research and consulting firm:

“For electric vehicles to proliferate further in the future, we need electric vehicles that are affordable to the masses, which will be a challenge because the cost of the minerals used in the batteries have skyrocketed in price. We need electric vehicles with longer range. We need an expanded electric vehicle charging network.”

That’s all well and good.  But my interest was piqued by the idea that there has been an “explosive growth” in EV ownership in the NY area. What she means to say is that a very small number has doubled and, in some cases, more than doubled. 

This is a common misunderstanding that leads to misrepresentation of facts.  Anytime any small quantity increases, it is easy for it to “double” and “triple”.  We see this in stock reports (where this characteristic can make people rich trading in penny stocks), in climate science, in medicine, in epidemiology – almost everywhere in fact.  The doubling of a small and insignificant number usually leads to a result that is still small and rather insignificant.  This is the case with EV ownership in the New York metropolitan area.

The article notes thatToday there are about 158,000 electric vehicles in the New York City metro region”.    There are 4.5 million cars in the counties that make up Greater NY alone….if we expand that to the entire Metro Region, a rather ill-defined area, a rough calculation gives about 8 million cars, with EVs making up just a little less than 2%.

But why even that many?  “The governors of New York and New Jersey have pledged that by 2035 all new vehicles sold in their states must produce zero carbon emissions, and Connecticut is considering a similar rule. There are more than five million passenger vehicles, such as cars, S.U.V.s, pickup trucks and vans, in the region.” [“the region” here is limited to NY/NJ near NY City, I believe).

Despite the growing pressure to kill the Internal Combustion Engine  (ICE) automobile in the United States, and force the transition to EVs,  the venerable Ford F-150 pickup truck (gasoline and diesel powered options) was not only  the best-selling truck in America in 2022 (for the 46th year in a row) but also the Best-Selling Vehicle overall (for the 41st year in a row).     And, running for the EV team, the Tesla  Model Y crossover was the sixth bestselling vehicle in the country in 2022.  [Note: 2023 Tesla Model Y — MSRP  $54,990 – $58,990 – compare to Mercedes-Benz prices here.]

So, who is buying Teslas? 

The general sensible economic rule for purchase price of a new car is the 50% rule viz: “Maximum purchase price by this formula —  Income: $50,000 Vehicle purchase price: $25,000 = 50% of $50,000”.  Thus if the cheapest Tesla is just under $60,000, the purchaser needs an annual income of $120,000.  Which is about twice the median annual income for a U.S. family [“$61,937 may be a more accurate representation of typical household earnings.” – source ]

Compare the price of the Tesla Model Y ($54,990 – $58,990) to the Nissan Rogue Sport that sells, brand new, for about $26,000, which would be affordable for our median family (even with a few extras thrown in).  [Disclosure:  The Rogue Sport is my current vehicle, with AWD for the snow and plenty of room for my two-person family.]   That means only the better-off, the top 34% of U.S. families, can afford even the cheapest Tesla, which costs twice as much as my Nissan – and that if they only need one car. (The average car ownership in the U.S. 1.89 per family – most families own 2 cars, some own none.)

Bottom Lines:

1.  Some people, and more people, are buying EVs of various types.  Both Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles (like the Toyota Prius)  and Battery Electric Vehicles, such as the Tesla, Ford and Chevrolet.  

2.  EV adoption is still hampered by price, range and availability of away-from-home charging stations. 

3.  Battery fires featured in the news may be affecting sales in some markets.

4.  Sales, however, are not “exploding” – they are gradually increasing as governments at various levels are passing laws restricting the future sale of ICE cars and light duty trucks, and currently only have a 1-2% market share. 

5.  There are some available affordable EVs, under $30,000 but only the Chevy Bolt has even a barely acceptable range (see link).

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Author’s Comment:

I support the adoption of EVs, especially as family transportation.  The most favorable niche is for the family’s ‘second car’ – the car used for running kids to school and sports events, daily/weekly local shopping, and for those with short commutes.  A slow-charger in the garage to charge it overnight is all that is needed. 

If you own a plug-in EV, charge it at home.  I pay 15¢ ($0.15) per kWh at home.  A charging station in NY currently charges 35¢ per kWh.  Your price differential will vary by your local rates.

This opinion is not based on CO2 emissions – but on common sense.  Petroleum is far too valuable to society to waste it by burning it up in ICE engines in family cars. 

The rub for most Americans, at least, is this:  I would not have been able to use an EV for my round trip to the Heartland Conference in Orlando, Florida (starting in Upstate NY – a total of about 2,500 miles). 

In rural America, it is quite common for a family with kids to have three vehicles.  (Look in my neighbor’s drive ways…sometimes four.  I don’t know why….).

I am totally opposed to the efforts to force companies to manufacture EVs or to force people to buy EVs – by any means whatever.  Let the market prevail.

Thanks for reading.

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via Watts Up With That?

March 6, 2023 at 08:24PM

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