An electric vehicle charging station at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai. When...

An electric vehicle charging station at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai. When it comes to adopting electric vehicles, other states continue to outpace New York. Credit: Daniel Goodrich

New York must tackle climate change head-on by implementing bold actions to secure a more climate-resilient future for all. That means tackling transportation, one of the largest sources of climate pollution, accounting for one-third of total emissions.

Every year, motor vehicles contribute approximately 11% of local fine particulate matter and 28% of nitrogen oxide emissions, which can trigger health problems such as asthma, reduced lung capacity, and increased susceptibility to upper respiratory infections. In order to combat this harm, one thing we must do is greatly increase the sale of zero-emission vehicles in New York.

On a national level, President Biden’s historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the proposed Build Back Better Act provide a whole-of-government approach to implement climate-action policies. This includes the president’s goal of building a nationwide network of 500,000 electric vehicle chargers to accelerate the adoption of EVs that will reduce emissions and pollution, improve air quality, and create good-paying jobs across the country. This is a once-in-a-generation investment in our nation’s infrastructure, but New York may miss the opportunity to benefit from this investment due to state restrictions on the direct sale of zero-emission vehicles.

Across the country, electric carmakers like Tesla, Lucid, and Rivian manufacture and sell electric vehicles directly to consumers without traditional franchise car dealers. New York State allowed direct sales until 2014, when a law was passed to stop Tesla from expanding beyond its five locations in Smithtown, Manhasset, Westchester County, and New York City. Due to this outdated cap, New York currently restricts all EV carmakers from opening any new direct-to-consumer stores. Not only does this impact expansion of direct sale, the cap forces New Yorkers to drive long distances and even out-of-state to test-drive or buy an electric car.

When it comes to electric vehicle adoption, other states continue to outpace New York. Florida, which has no zero-emission incentives and no direct sales cap, saw 60% higher EV sales than New York since 2019. Currently, our state provides a rebate of $500 to $2,000 per car to incentivize New Yorkers to drive electric. And yet, Florida has nearly twice as many electric vehicles on the road. New York continues to fall behind due to restrictions on direct sales of EVs.

Gov. Kathy Hochul pledged in her State of the State address to increase EV sales by investing $1 billion to make them more accessible to the public and ensure our infrastructure is ready to support this initiative. Additionally, she has committed to increasing the sales of electric vehicles from 4% of all light-duty vehicles in 2021 to 90% in 2030.

Julie Tighe is president of the New York League of...

Julie Tighe is president of the New York League of Conservation Voters. Credit: Julie Tighe

The New York League of Conservation Voters commends Hochul’s commitment to set New York on a path to widespread electric car use. To meet these goals, we must rapidly adopt EVs statewide, which will further secure New York’s clean energy future and protect people and the environment from the worsening impacts of climate change and fossil fuel pollution.

Hochul and the State Legislature must work to remove the barriers New Yorkers face in buying EVs and pass a law, proposed by Sen. Todd Kaminsky and Assemb. Pat Fahy, as part of the state budget to expand direct sales — at no cost — this year.

Now more than ever, if we are serious about fighting climate change, we must eliminate these roadblocks to electric vehicle adoption.

This gues essay reflects the views of Julie Tighe, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters.

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