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A boost for electric cars

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced a $70 million program to provide electric car rebates and pay for an outreach initiative—another step toward greater market acceptance.

The Drive Clean Initiative will devote $55 million toward rebates, giving consumers up to $2,000 for the purchase of a new plug-in hybrid electric car, all-electric car or hydrogen fuel cell car. This is on top of a federal rebate of $7,500 available for these vehicles.

These rebates help to bring electric vehicles into a price range more New Yorkers can afford. This is important, as one of the draws of buying an electric vehicle is saving money by having to buy no (or less) gas. With the cost of gas significantly lower than it was five years ago ($2.33 average in Rochester this week vs. $3.95 in 2012), the long-term savings aren’t big enough right now to convince people to pay the full price for an electric vehicle.

However, high cost is not the only deterrent to people purchasing electric vehicles. Many people are wary of driving an electric vehicle because of range anxiety and concern that they will not be able to find a charging station when they need one.

These are valid concerns. The city of Rochester has added charging stations to its parking garages in recent years, but there are still only 24 stations spread across seven garages throughout the city.

Which is why the second, smaller, portion of Cuomo’s initiative might be just as important: $15 million for outreach. This includes installing more charging stations across the state, as well as improving consumer awareness of electric cars.

After a 5 percent dip in sales in the U.S. in 2015, electric vehicle sales climbed by 37 percent last year, according to Forbes. U.S. electric vehicle sales were some 160,000 last year, up from less than 20,000 in 2011. Still, that is less than 1 percent of the U.S. car market.

Programs such as the one Cuomo announced Tuesday will help to make electric vehicles a viable option for more New Yorkers.

3/24/2017 (c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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