ALBANY — Green energy advocates are rallying support for a measure designed to make it easier for consumers to get electric vehicles directly from manufacturers.
They contend that increasing the sale of zero emission vehicles can be accomplished by removing a cap on manufacturer stores offering new cars without consumers having to go to franchise dealerships.
The push is intensifying this week after New York adopted a new law that requires all passenger vehicles sold in New York to be emission-free by 2035.
Peter Iwanowicz, director of Environmental Advocates, a non-profit group that lobbies for clean energy legislation, said the new law signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul effectively "puts an expiration date" on cars with internal combustion engines in New York.
But the next step in the path to reducing dirty emissions, he said, is for lawmakers and Hochul to put their weight behind a bill that would expand the sale of electric vehicles in New York by tackling impediments in the current law.
"We are not going to be able to reach our climate goals and we are not going to be able to live up to the mandates of the new law if it is too darned hard for consumers to get hold of electric vehicles," he said.
The number of electric vehicle stores in the state is now limited to five, all of them operated by Tesla, the company headquartered in Palo Alto, California.
The legislation that Environmental Advocates and a second group, the Alliance for Clean Energy, are promoting is sponsored by Sen. Todd Kaminsky, D-Long Island, and Assembly Member Patricia Fahy, D-Albany. Their bill argues the limits on manufacturer-run stores have made it onerous for upstate New Yorkers to get an electric vehicle of their choice.
"Due to overwhelming demand, these stores are all located downstate, leaving upstate residents without convenient and accessible locations to purchase zero-emission vehicles and preventing any additional electric vehicle companies from opening stores in the state," the legislation states.
Hochul has not yet staked out a position on the measure. Her spokesman said the bill is being reviewed.
The measure has drawn stiff opposition from the Greater New York Automobile Dealership Association, which represents car dealers. The dealers' group highlights the fact that electric vehicles can be purchased in New York from more than 300 new car dealerships. But those do not include the Tesla-run stores that are currently capped.
The higher prices charged for electric cars have made them unaffordable for many consumers. President Joe Biden, meanwhile, has set a goal that half of all new cars sold in the United States be battery-powered by 2030.
Iwanowicz said franchise car dealers are more motivated to steer consumers to gasoline-powered cars because they have many more moving parts, break down more often than electric cars and thus require more maintenance.
He said it would behoove car dealers "to understand where their industry is going" and do more to promote the benefits of emission-free vehicles.
New York's Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act sets a goal of an 85% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 from 1990 levels.
State officials say New York is a national leader in curbing air pollution caused by emissions from the transportation sector.
New York and California are now the only two states with legislation aimed at full reliance on zero-emission power for cars and light trucks. The New York law sets a 2045 deadline for the elimination of greenhouse gas emissions from medium and heavy trucks.
Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at email@example.com.