Are “Electrics” Like The Chevrolet Volt Still Impractical For New York City? – Video

JUN 28 2016 BY JAY COLE 70

How does a Chevrolet Volt fare on New York streets? Not so well according to reporter Gersh Kuntzman, who lament the fact he doesn’t have a full-time place to plug it in like his boss.

“…(Chevrolet Volt) sounds great if you live in the city, well I live in the city, I live in the real world. I am not a suburbanite with some sort of garage that I plug into every night. I’m a guy who lives in New York City in one of these kinds of Brownstones. Where you gonna park it? You park it on the street. You get a spot in front of your house? This is New York, of course you don’t! So lets see the kind of day I had trying to use my Chevy Volt.”

The written piece and video entitled “Electric cars like Chevy Volt are still impractical for New York streets“, does have a point;  that is if it were not for the vehicle and premise in question.   It can be darn hard to drive on all electricity, all the time in NYC.

What to do if you can't find a plug everyday for your Chevy Volt in NYC?

What to do if you can’t find a plug everyday for your Chevy Volt in NYC?

However, given the fact that the Chevrolet Volt is explicitly designed to ‘not be plugged in‘ on those occasions when it is not convenient to do so, seems to fly in the face of the antics and over-acting shown in the video.

Mr. Kuntzman notes in his article that the “short commutes” of New Yorkers in theory makes the Volt ideal due to its ability to drive gas free (well, for 53 miles or so anyway).  We agree.  But we have to wonder, if those commutes are so short, wouldn’t the Volt’s full charge most likely be good for the bulk of the work week?

Curious to know how short on average that work commute might be, we looked up a Brookings Institution survey and found out the average NYC commute was 7.7 miles.  Further still, Mr. Kuntzman – who calls Brooklyn home, lives just about ~5.7 miles from work (Brooklyn to New York Plaza).  So, what gives?

Does this reporter really need to be on the prowl for a place to plug in all the time?  Regardless, why does he care if he has to burn 1/10th a gallon of gas to go an extra few miles on occasion at week’s end if he fails in that mission?  Is he really going door-to-door with an extension cord?  

Essentially, a single charge would almost get the reporter to and from work all week long…he would only have to “get lucky” in finding a plug maybe once a week to run gas free, or (perish the thought) drive to an actual public charging station (there is more than a 100 within 10 miles of his location) if he abhors the use of any gas so much.

That isn't how a plug-in hybrid works NY Daily News - time to do a little story edit?

That isn’t how a plug-in hybrid works NY Daily News.  If you want to do a piece on the limits of a short range, all-electric car in NYC, then why not use an…all-electric car?

Somewhere in this story is a valid point; that short range, all-electric cars probably aren’t the best idea for living in New York City…we get that, it would be a pain.   However, for plug-ins like the Chevrolet Volt and uber-long range EVs – like the upcoming inexpensive Chevy Bolt EV and more pricey Tesla Model S, they will work just fine in our opinion.

Fortune, Hat tip to sven!

Categories: Charging, Chevrolet


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70 Comments on "Are “Electrics” Like The Chevrolet Volt Still Impractical For New York City? – Video"

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More the question, why does he drive, when NYC has plenty of public transport and is flat, so he could also bike?

Exactly! I thought the first thing not to do in NYC was to drive a car! It’s like a hazing prank set against tourists or new movers.

That same applies to all other cities in the world. You cannot charge if don’t happen to own a garage. The majority of people live in condos, but still own cars.

The majority of New Yorkers don’t really use a car on a daily basis. I live in Boston and I barely use a car. So, the real argument is against cars period. There is no need for an EV in NY. There are far more eco-friendly options that New Yorkers already use.

I’m not talking about NY or even USA.

I was agreeing with you above. 🙂

Cars are the most Eco friendly option. Trains polute way more than cars. Here is one of a thousand articles on how cars pollute less than trains.

Did you even read that article? It says trains might sometimes be worse than planes, not cars. It specifically says cars are (almost) the worst option:

“Cars emitted more than any other form of transport with the notable exception of off-peak buses, which often carry few passengers.”

In any case, because a lot of those numbers are making assumptions about how power is generated at power plants feeding electric infrastructure, they’re probably already way outdated. Our grid is getting more emissions efficient all the time for the full gamut of reasons (less coal and more natural gas, more efficient processes, more carbon capture, more renewables)

I don’t know if you’re right about the majority of the world living in condos/apartments, but I seriously doubt the majority of gasoline and diesel is burned by them.

Those in condos/apartments drive far fewer miles per capita that those elsewhere.

Exactly. NYC is a crappy place to drive if you don’t need to. Why bother. Ugh.

The lady on the steps of the brownstone is probably a set-up, in that he knows her, and told her what to say.
Though I think owning a car in NYC is really a drag anyway:

There are several people offering their homes for charging on plugshare too. Maybe he should have asked one of those people.

Good point, as he mentions nothing about going on the internet to find a plug. It’s because it is a hit piece.

Exactly. Idiot can’t make it work.

Most people here may think that the response given by the lady on the steps to the reporter was rude, that’s actually considered being polite in NYC. 😉

Via Plugshare, looks like there are 3 locations to charge near where he works. Why not just charge while working?

Because it’s an Exxon Funded Hit Piece.

Maybe some of the charging stations VW is being forced to build by the DoJ will be in NYC.

I’m not sure how J1772 plugs compare to gas stations, but Tesla has Manhattan covered.

Nobody should drive their own cars in mega cities like NYC. Public transport, delivered stuff, and car pool services are the way to go.

That shared car pool should however be electrified. Could be done curbside, but garages are likely enough if you actually got people to give up on having their own car and instead just share a much smaller fleet of cars with other residents in their neighborhood.

This same problem is in all cities, not just in “mega cities”. My city has only 200k inhabitants and I practically cannot charge anywhere.

Nobody criticized the reporter’s boss for driving alone in the Volt from her suburban Greenwich, Connecticut home to a parking garage in Manhattan (approx 30-35 miles), instead of taking readily available public transit to commute to work. Metro North regional rail has a stop in Greenwich, Ct and goes to Grand Central Station in midtown Manhattan, and from there she could have walked or taken a subway or bus the rest of the way into her office.

Most all of the charging stations in NYC are in pay parking garages, which can be very expensive. Note that the garage that his boss pulls into @2:15 is advertising an “All Day Special” that allows you park for any 1/2-hour in the day for the princely sum of $11.83 plus tax, which is 18.375% (state, city, and parking tax)!!! The hourly rate goes down if you stay longer. Let’s just say that if you don’t rent a monthly parking garage space and park on the street, charging at a pay parking garage would be prohibitively more expensive than fueling an ICE car with gasoline for someone who is just trying to make end meet.

Every light post is a potential location off a level 1 charger, which would be sufficient for most drivers. It always surprises me how difficult it is to finish the last 20-50 feet between the existing electric grid and an EV. Good luck with fuel cell infrastructure.

My inner Grammar Nazi says:

“How does a Chevrolet Volt fair on New York streets?”

Well, the car may attend a fair; but I think what was meant was the verb fare, rather than the noun fair.

P.S. — Sorry to read about the flagellation imposed on InsideEVs writers who commit grammar errors, Jay. 😯

Did someone get tased?

Or maybe “tazed”? Don’t know…

Sorry, had to jump on the Grammer nazi trane while its headed for the staytion….

He does say he loves the car. Come on now, we all know it’s certainly not as easy as you want it to look. In fact, we have been saying this every since I can remember. One of the reasons EVs don’t take off is because cities aren’t prepared for them. So, why all the animosity? What changed? Are cities prepared now? This did happen overnight? Do you seriously expect me to go knock on someone’s door asking if I can plug in?

Cars are impractical for NYC.

I thought the piece was by sven until I saw hat-tip! 😉

This is why DCFC option on Volt would’ve been helpful. You can’t expect to use public charger for 6 hours at a time week after week (or day after day), but 20 minutes while buying donuts is very useful.

But under 10 miles per day, SparkEV with DCFC would work better; with NY traffic, range could be close to 100 miles, even in winter.

The only thing DCFC accomplishes for Volt is adding a higher-cost option so you can use higher-cost fuel.

It is theater.

Spider-Dan: If you can’t charge the car with L2, DCFC is well worth the money. For the situation in the article, it may be better to ditch L2 and just have DCFC. Maybe one can have on-board low cost L1 (about 1kW) for rare AC charging, but it doesn’t matter if L2 is 3 kW or 7 kW if one can’t spare hours at public charger.

I’m looking at my usage pattern, and it certainly would work fine with L1 + DCFC with L1 meeting commute needs and DCFC meeting 100+ miles trips. Granted, home charging is lot more convenient than gas cars. But if one wants to go electric and live in apt/condo, DCFC alone could work since that’s always combined with supermarket or restaurant trips.

A very high percentage of NYC resident commute by subway and bus to work, which mean they don’t put on as many miles on their cars as suburban commuters, and therefore wouldn’t have to charge as often. A public transit commuting NYC resident would just use their car locally during the week for shopping, running errands, going out, not traveling far since most things are relatively close by in NYC. On the weekends, they might want to get away for a trip to the beach or mountains.

Without the daily commute by car, it’s a different usage pattern. Some short trips during the week and maybe some longer trip during the weekend. A longer range BEV could mean that they only have to charge once a week or once in two weeks if they don’t go anywhere one weekend.

DCFC makes no economic sense in a car that runs at full power on gas. It is as practical as the solar panels on the Prius Prime: a way to show other people how “green” you are regardless of the horrible cost ratio.

By your logic, driving electric makes no sense. There are cars the size of Volt that runs only on gas that are cheaper. Point is to drive electric. If you want to do that in NY and other space constrained areas and cannot charge at home, using L2 becomes too expensive and inconvenient.

Cost would be cheaper with DCFC than L2 as Sven point out awful high cost of public chargers. 20 minutes vs 5 hours at $11/hr “parking fee” and you can see driving electric on Volt with only L2 makes no sense economically and temporally while DCFC would make more sense.

Then we’re back to why charge at all? Just use gas engine and don’t drive Volt. True, and I think this is why Sven and others make the argument for FCV. I wouldn’t mind FCV if it’s cheaper than gas if I cannot charge BEV at home, but it doesn’t seem like that’ll happen.

Driving electric makes plenty of (economic) sense when one can charge at home on cheap rates. When one cannot (as in the example above), no, it does not make sense to drive electric, which is why people like me are in favor of FCVs as a parallel technology: if you’re going to pay much higher prices for fuel and you can’t refuel overnight at home, then at least you should be able to refuel your car quickly.

Saying that very expensive DCFC “makes more sense” than ludicrously expensive commercial L2 is not really a compelling argument. Neither of them are what I would consider compelling options for a prospective EV owner.

1. You hit the name on the head, it’s an OPTION so if you don’t see the $750 value, you don’t have to order it…
2. You have a point that DCFC station is rarely ever free and is in fact often expensive…However some may choose this more pricey option to not burn gasoline…
3. It may be the future…In two years there may only be DCFC…
4. It would help a sleuth of the “supporting cast” how many times have we heard that dealerships do not keep Volts charged for test drives? What about service diagnosis’s? What about GM’s own Maven car sharing service who want a nearly full car?

“This is why DCFC option on Volt would’ve been helpful.”

It comes standard in the form of gasoline engine/generator.

If you cannot charge at home, and workplace charging cost $11/hr and need many hours a day, how likely are you to plug in? Volt without DCFC is terrible in those situations. If you only want a hybrid without being able to plug in, Prius gets better gas mileage.

Try the experiment yourself by not charging at home / work for a period of time (say, 1 month). Without DCFC, it’s pretty much a regular hybrid that gets gas mileage of Chevy Cruze on highway while costing almost $8K more.

And DCFC will be cheaper than your claim of $11/hr? LOL.

If the Volt can’t be charged, then there is even less incentives to add DCFC just so it can get 53 miles with that gasoline REx onboard…

Yes, buying a Prius would be cheaper, but it still won’t drive as nice as the Volt. In fact, if it is “cheap” that people are concerned, most people won’t buy anything anymore..

Yes, Cruze would have been a cheaper choice than the Volt if you can’t charge. That is why EVs don’t work for everyone yet.

Did he get “temporary PTSD” from his range anxiety? (See his recent gun-related article)

Clickbait / trolling as usual from this guy.

Any article on charger locating that doesn’t include using Plugshare/Chargepoint site or apps is a garbage article that lacked even the most basic research OR it’s purposely misleading for clicks.


If he had picked….I dunno, any <100 mile BEV, this guy may have had a point. Maybe. But he picked one of the plug-in vehicles that is least vulnerable to range anxiety.

The title of the article should have been "Car ownership still impractical for NYC".

Is this the Koch brothers money at work?

I have said this for years: EVs can never fully replace ICEs unless everyone can charge overnight.

This is why FCVs need to exist. There will always be a market for quick-refilling vehicles with chemical fuel; the only question is whether that chemical will be petroleum, hydrogen, or something else entirely.

If they can bring the price down below that of gasoline, sure, FCV could be viable for apt/condo dwellers since inconvenience factor would be the same. But until that happens, FCV makes no sense. Then we’re back to the old chicken and egg problem, maybe worse.

You are objecting to the increased cost of H2 (compared to gas) several comments below where you recommended exclusively using DCFC on a BEV… which also has increased costs compared to gas. So why are you in favor of increased costs on one end, but not the other?

And so as to explain my own position: I have no problem with the person who wants to pay more for more environmentally-friendly transportation; this person should be commended. But such a position seems to be ideologically inconsistent with buying a PHEV.

I would say exactly the same thing if someone bought a car that could run off of either H2 or gasoline. If you can get extremely cheap H2 at home and extremely expensive H2 on the road, and you choose to buy H2 instead of reasonably cheap gas, why did you buy a car that can run on gas in the first place?

Imagine all the gas cars and taxi’s in NYC when gas stations can’t pump gas!

This story sounds like it was by a guy from the pre internet and pre smart phone days that has no idea how to use a seach engine or how to word a good long tale seach!

At least he didn’t Broder it and say he got stranded in the Lincoln tunnel.

New York used to have a lot of street-side charging stations back in the early days of EVs. There’s an old map at Henry Ford Museum that shows where each one was. Very interesting that they had such an investment in infrastructure so early, compared to what we have now.

I believe it would be a better car for these situations if the Volt had a more powerful charger than it currently has. It might still require a special trip to charge it, but at least it wouldn’t take as long.

I would have a pretty negative view of everything as well if my first name was Gersh or my last name was Kuntzman.

Just sayin…

The original version of the piece on the NY Daily News website called the Volt an all-electric. That’s where I stopped reading. Apparently the “editors” decided to “fix” the error, but didn’t take the whole thing down as it sells copies/eyeballz.

I lived outside of NYC for a couple of years with my Volt and would drive to the city pretty much every weekend. Two things:

1. Weekdays, I wouldn’t drive in NYC because it makes no sense.

2. I often parked in garages with chargers. That’s right, if you park on the street there’s no way to charge but if you park in a parking garage, there quite often is in NYC.

NYC streets are full of taxi’s and town cars anyways. Solve the problem of transitioning THOSE vehicles to electric first anyways.

Time is money for a NYC taxi driver, and current tech takes too much time to charge. Also, real estate prices are to high for either electric fast charger stations or the disappearing gas stations (replaced by luxury condos) in Manhattan.

Plugshare shows charger literally right across from the NY Daily News offices (assuming he works there). Comments say it was fried during Sandy and might still not work. But description also says 2 wall outlets in that garage.

Took me 30 seconds to find this info.

30 whole seconds?! That’s at least double the time he spent researching this report.

Silly article with some really head shaking conclusions. Why this stuff deserves any space on any website???

Why did he then pick a Volt of all cars. Shorter range than all BEV, heavy, and still needs gas.

New York is a crappy place to own a car, any car. With the bizarre on-street parking regulations, life resolves itself into times when you’re hunting for a parking space,or going out to move the car at night due to the alternate side of the street parking regulations. Only if you’re rich enough to have a bespoke indoor parking space can you enjoy having a car, and it it’s indoor,you can set up to charge every night.

I get his general point (look, practically EVerything is impractical on the streets of NYC). But to be accurate, there is virtually NO car like the Volt… and he never bothers to mention that you never have to actually plug it in… EVer. He could have actually made an argument for the Volt being the PERfect NYC EV. Because, if you keep it gassed up (btw, ALso not easy in NYC… But that’s another story), you still get 42+mpg and an almost-smooth-as-pure-electric ride.

Overall is argument is half baked and silly… Not unlike some of those early FOX news reports about the Volt “running out of electric in the middle of the Holland Tunnel” (and then not bothering to mention that the gas engine then seamlessly kicks in for a perfect experience).

That is exactly the point of the Chevy Volt. Charge when you can. Use Gas when you need. The real issue here is lack of charging facilities. Cars like Chevy Volt do not require expensive and complicated DCFC or high end L2 stations to charge. A regular 120V 15A socket works for over 60% of a Chevy Volt users, per GM.

GM is always criticized as not supporting ‘Infrastructure’, either by not supplying all cars with CCS Jacks, or Not financing electric filling stations, when they have in fact made all their cars work with even substandard recepticles in people’s homes.

All GM products to date default to 8 amps at a 110 volt charging level. In short, if you have ANY kind of an old plug at home, a GM brand vehicle can be charged by it.

Nothing has really changed here…

Before buying a plugin vehicle you have to take a good look at your specific situation, and determine if you have a place to charge your vehicle every night.

In general, If you live in the big city and not in a single family home, you may have difficulty finding a place to charge every night.

There may be a few exceptions, for a few individuals, but for the most part this is a true statement.

The rest is just over the top drama to make that point.

That video is dumb. Nobody who lives in New York City drives a car — unless they live in Staten Island, but that’s basically New Jersey. New York City has extensive mass transit. When I worked in Brooklyn, I never had to drive anywhere ever. The subway even dropped me off every morning a few steps outside the building where I worked.