Electric-Car Charging In The Heart Of New York: How Easy?

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2012 Mitsubishi i electric car, New York City, August 2012

2012 Mitsubishi i electric car, New York City, August 2012

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Our recent test of a 2012 Mitsubishi 'i' electric minicar was actually the first time we've tested a pure battery electric car in New York City.

While the relatively short distances covered in NYC would seem well suited to plug-in cars, there's the big issue of recharging.

With most residents not having private garages--either parking on the street or in commercial lots and garages--where can you recharge?

We did a little research and concluded that with our Chargepoint card, we could probably piece together enough places to recharge the Mitsubishi.

We're lucky to live five minutes from a commercial parking garage with a Level 2 Chargepoint station, and we found another one in Queens only a few blocks from a venue where we planned to spend a few hours.

With that in mind, off we went--charging the little Mitsubishi twice over a four-day test that covered about 70 miles.

The first time was in the parking structure behind the courthouse that gives Court Square in Long Island City its name.

That lot was conveniently just two blocks from PS1, the old public school converted into a Queens outpost of the Museum of Modern Art, which offers a longstanding series of quasi-rave outdoor musical performances on summer Saturday afternoons.

2012 Mitsubishi i electric car, New York City, August 2012

2012 Mitsubishi i electric car, New York City, August 2012

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Better yet, the row of Chargepoint charging stations was in the very front of the garage, in the free section before the toll gates. They were blocked off with crime-scene tape behind a row of orange traffic cones, but that was easily dealt with.

While we spent a few hours at the performance, the charging station added 3.6 kilowatt-hours to the Mitsubishi's 16-kWh battery in an hour and 13 minutes.

Our next recharge came in late the following evening, after our odyssey to City Island had brought remaining range down to 12 miles.

The nearby multistory commercial parking garage had a Chargepoint station on the ground floor on a support pillar. The staff said it had been used by Nissan Leafs, Chevy Volts, and one Tesla Roadster.

We parked the Mitsubishi between the pillar and a huge heavy-duty pickup truck, validated with our card, plugged in, and went about our business.

More than five hours later, we got a  text on our mobile phone saying that we should check the car's charging status, as it appeared to be consuming very little power.

Wandering back to the garage, we unplugged the car and took it away--with 69 miles of range showing (with AC off) and 12.5 kWh added to the battery.

2012 Mitsubishi i electric car, New York City, August 2012

2012 Mitsubishi i electric car, New York City, August 2012

Enlarge Photo

The startling part was the cost.

Charging at Court Square was free, possibly because it was a municipal parking garage.

New York City has a quiet but relatively aggressive program to encourage plug-in car usage, both for the emissions reduction and to assist the city's effort to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in the city as a whole.

At the commercial parking garage, however, the parking for six hours would have cost roughly $28--and we were charged a whopping $15.48 (minus a 25-cent Chargepoint "loyalty fee") for that 12.5 kWh.

That's not only more than a dollar a kilowatt-hour for Level 2 charging, it's four times the residential rate of about 25 cents/kWh that Manhattan residents pay.

Our conclusion was that recharging a plug-in car in New York City (at least on weekends) was easier than we expected, possibly due to a lucky choice of destinations.

But--like everything else in NYC--it'll cost ya. A lot.

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