Drivers answer – West Side Rag

Charging outside the city. Photo credit: dronepicr via Wikimedia Commons.

Daniel Katsiwe

When we published our article about electric vehicle (EV) ownership in the Upper West Side last week, we invited EV owners to contact us and share their EV ownership experiences in the neighborhood. In emails and phone conversations with nine owners or prospective owners of electric vehicles, several themes emerged. Some gave their names and some chose not to, so we have kept all comments anonymous for consistency.


Electric car owners we spoke to were generally happy with their purchases. They were candid about the added challenges of owning an electric car (as one driver told us, “range anxiety is a real thing,” especially since he found that the available miles estimates on his dashboard didn’t always match the actual miles left to need to charge again). But no one we heard from indicated that they considered buying or leasing an electric car a mistake. No “don’t do!” answers; one Tesla driver even called his car “the best thing I’ve ever bought.”

The spread of chargers also seems to be outpacing the adoption of the vehicles themselves, at least for now, with drivers reporting that it’s getting easier to find an affordable charger both in and out of the city.

One current owner we spoke to previously owned a 2018 Tesla and operated it as an Uber driver. He noted that he was initially attracted to the car by his passion for Elon [Musk]The idea of ​​using new technologies to solve environmental problems.” He said he also owns Tesla stock.

At the time, he said, he had to drive all the way to Kennedy Airport or Tarrytown (about 20 miles up the Hudson River) to access high-speed charging. Although he liked the car itself, he gave up after about six months, partly due to the difficulty of finding charging options. Now he has a new Tesla that he parks in a garage on the lower Upper West Side. He says it’s much easier to find charging options today than it was four years ago, in garages in the city or on the road. In fact, this owner told us he recently took a trip to Yellowstone National Park, charging at hotels along the way.


While our original Rag article focused on the challenges of EV charging on the UWS, most EV owners we heard from said they rarely charge their cars in the city. We spoke to one EV driver who drove his car to the West Village, but most of the drivers we heard from used them primarily for out-of-town trips, so it was easy to avoid having to charge in Manhattan.

Outside of Manhattan, many retail outlets and offices have high-speed chargers, some of which can charge a car in as little as 15 minutes, and EVs can also be plugged into residential 120-volt outlets for slower charging during overnight stays with friends and relatives.

Tesla drivers we spoke to said the company’s app makes it relatively easy to find Tesla’s high-speed chargers along the various routes they drive. Tesla claims on its website that there are currently more than 35,000 superchargers worldwide, and according to scrapehero, 1,422 of those are in the US.

While non-Tesla drivers can’t use Tesla’s high-speed chargers, a Volkswagen EV driver told us his three-year VW EV lease gives him free access to Electrify America’s chargers, which he says easily accessible from major highways in the area. These high-speed (level 3) chargers can top up a battery in as little as 15 minutes, as opposed to the hours it can take to charge with 240V level 2 chargers available on the street or in most garages. Level 1 charging (which is basically a 120V outlet) can take much longer.

This preference for out-of-town charging is very similar to the fueling habits of gas-powered car drivers. As we noted in our original article, gas is more expensive in Manhattan and gas stations are very few and far between. Most Upper West Siders don’t need a car for daily commutes around town; those who own cars tend to use them to leave New York for out-of-town work, to visit relatives and friends, to go home for the weekend, or for entertainment. For these drivers, refueling or charging outside of Manhattan can be downright inconvenient.


Many drivers who occasionally charge in the city use a flexible approach rather than relying on a single source for charging.

One Tesla driver we spoke with said he sometimes drives to Ridge Hill Mall in Yonkers to plug into Tesla’s high-speed charger while shopping at Whole Foods or visiting other retailers.

Another recent Tesla customer noted that they once used public chargers on 76th Street, but were sometimes unable to access them because the stations were blocked by illegally parked non-electric vehicles. This same driver, who works in the film industry and often uses his car to get to distant filming locations at odd hours, also connected his car to generators while on location and once experimented with dropping an extension cord from the fifth floor window of his home, even though he said he would be unlikely to use this method again given the practical inconvenience and slow rate of charging from a 120-volt outlet.


The EV owners we spoke to are happy with their cars and have found ways to deal with the complexities of charging their cars while living in an urban environment. But more than 98% of passenger cars registered to households living on the Upper West Side remain gasoline-powered, and it’s unclear how quickly the spread will spread from here.

Daniel Cohen is an Upper Westside resident and founder of UCharge, a startup company working to solve the tolling dilemma for urban residents. Cohen told us that his research shows that the Upper West Side is an area that could generate more interest in EVs than most other areas of the city (TriBeCa is another such area, but with a much smaller population than the UWS) . Drivers are interested in electric cars, he says, not only because they want to be more environmentally responsible, but also because they see electric cars as the technology of the future. For these drivers, “their current car seems old-fashioned.”

According to Cohen, the main hesitation he hears among potential electric car owners is “how practical is it going to be?” in terms of charging. For the growth of EV ownership to really accelerate, we may need to increase charging capacity both in and out of the city.

Upper West Siders interested in owning an EV should do their own research and consider how an EV will perform in the context of their current driving habits: where they drive, how often, how many miles, and where they park.

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