Owners Get Charge from EVs

Sean Malahy bought a 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning after the 2022 version sold out. Photo by L. Sparks

Sean Malahy bought a 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning after the 2022 version sold out. (Photo by L. Sparks)

Electric vehicles represent small, but growing, share

Martha Upton, Philipstown’s climate-smart coordinator, was excited when Tesla introduced its first electric car, but the cost proved too high.

So, when Kia released its lower-priced Kona EV in 2018, Upton and her husband, Peter Davis, decided to “take the plunge” on a 2019 model. They plunged again last year, when Davis decided to add a second electric car instead of keeping his hybrid. 

His choice: a Ford Mustang Mach-E, with a range of about 300 miles and 400 horsepower. “I’m not used to a car with so much power,” said Davis. “It has this thing called ‘unbridled mode,’ which I’m afraid to try.” 

Also unbridled is the enthusiasm Davis, Upton and other Highlands residents have for their electric vehicles. While the technology is still evolving and prices continue to exceed the budgets of many drivers, EVs are expected to play a growing role in reducing the carbon emissions fueling climate change.

In September, Gov. Kathy Hochul directed the Department of Environmental Conservation to draft regulations requiring that by 2035 all new passenger cars, pickups and SUVs sold in the state produce zero emissions. The state has also set a goal of having 850,000 zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025. 

Right now, the owners of electric vehicles represent a small but growing share of the state’s drivers. New York state had 136,587 electric vehicles on the road as of February, according to a dashboard of EV ownership and charger data created for the state by Atlas Public Policy, an analytics and research firm. 

Although EV owners represented just 5 percent of new vehicle registrations in 2022, registrations of fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles last year reached 51,000 — 24 percent higher than in 2021 and more than double the 2020 figure — bringing the state’s total to 190,561, according to the EV dashboard.

local charging stationsThe 3,819 registered EVs in Dutchess County included 237 in the ZIP code that encompasses Beacon and part of Fishkill. Of the 1,556 registered EVs in Putnam County, there were 234 in Philipstown (including Cold Spring and Nelsonville) and 197 in Garrison. 


For these early adopters, choices are driven by desire to reduce their use of fossil fuels and save money. The costs of their purchases have been eased by a federal tax credit and state rebate. 

Brett Daigle of Philipstown estimated spending $500 to $600 a month for his daily commute to New York City before buying a Tesla Model 3 in early 2021 to replace a Subaru Crosstrek. He and his wife have a rule: Whoever has the longest drive uses the Tesla.

“If you ask me, with a gun to my head, how much gas is, I have no idea,” he said. “And that feels great.” 

Daigle’s Model 3 tops the list of EV models on the road in New York, according to the state’s data. Behind it are Tesla’s Model Y, Toyota’s Prius Prime and RAV4 Prime, and Tesla’s Models S and X. 

Nelsonville resident Sean Malahy and his wife tried to buy an F-150 Lightning all-electric pickup when Ford introduced it in April, but buyers quickly snapped up the initial allotment. They joined a waitlist for the 2023 model, finally ordering the truck in August and receiving it in December. 

“We were in the market for a new vehicle and it feels like EVs were far enough along that it wasn’t a poor choice to make,” he said. 

New EV pricesJared Hamburger, a Beacon resident, just bought a 2023 Chevrolet Bolt that he uses to pare expenses as a part-time driver for Uber. Peter Callaway of Cold Spring said his 2019 Nissan Leaf is the “by far the best car I’ve owned in 60 years of driving.” 

Malahy named environmental concerns as his primary reason for the purchase, as did David Limburg of Nelsonville, who said a desire to reduce his carbon footprint drove him to replace his “trusty” gas-powered 2008 Honda Fit in 2019. 

Limburg said he initially did not consider an electric car, but a Facebook conversation with people who owned them, and a presentation about EVs at the Desmond-Fish Public Library, spurred his decision in 2019 to lease a Hyundai Ioniq. The car, leased from the Healy dealership in Fishkill, had a range of 125 miles on a full charge. 

“When I passed a gas station on the way home, I laughed because I would never need to go there again,” said Limburg, who switched to a Hyundai Kona in 2021 because it had twice as much range. 

cars on roadMechanics, except for the occasional tire rotation, also fare badly. Josh Garrett of Philipstown popped the hood on his Tesla Model Y on Monday (March 13). The only visible part was the cap that he pops off to refill the windshield-washer fluid.

“You don’t have to get tuneups or smog checks,” he said. “All of those moving parts that take the gas in your tank and move it into the engine to light it on fire and to pump exhaust out of the tailpipe, none of that exists in the EV.” 

What does exist are a $7,500 federal tax credit for EVs and a rebate of up to $2,000 through the state’s Drive Clean program for EVs and plug-in hybrids. Malahy said the federal tax credit helped convince him and his wife to buy their Ford last year instead of waiting for the price to come down. 

In addition, Central Hudson offers discounted rates to EV owners who charge at home during off-peak hours — after 7 p.m. and before 2 p.m. 

Without incentives, the cost of owning an EV is unaffordable for many drivers, one of the biggest barriers to their widespread adoption. The average price for a new electric vehicle was $58,385 in February, down from January but still well above the average new-car price, according to Kelly Blue Book. 

Plug-in hybrids, which have a rechargeable battery, are a less-expensive option than fully electric vehicles. Chris Borris and her husband, Vincent Bielski, bought a 2022 Ford Escape on March 1. A full battery lasts for 40 miles, but Bielski said the couple has so far used just one-eighth of a tank of gas. 

“It may take us three months to burn a tank of gas,” he said. 

josh garrett 2

Josh Garrett owns a Tesla Model Y that he and his wife bought in May 2021. (Photo by L. Sparks)

Other barriers include the driving range of current EVs and the state’s network of public chargers. While some of the newest electric cars can reach or exceed 300 miles, passenger cars registered in New York average 146 miles and SUVs, 184. 

Certain circumstances can hasten the depletion of a battery’s charge, such as the use of heaters in cold weather.

Thomas Otto of Nelsonville commutes to work in New Jersey in a BMW i3 whose range falls from 75 to 60 miles in the winter. The car has a “range extender,” a small generator, powered by 2 gallons of gas, that charges a low battery enough to add 60 t0 100 additional miles, he said. 

Nissan rates the range for Callaway’s Leaf at 215 miles, but the car has a feature called regenerative braking that charges the battery when he decelerates. When he’s coming downhill on Route 301 into Cold Spring, he coasts to let the battery recharge. “I manage to get the range up to 250 to 260,” he said. 

Davis and Upton employ several strategies for preserving range in the winter, such as relying solely on seat heaters. In February, they drove the Mustang to Massachusetts in below-10-degree weather. 

They can make the trip without stopping, but have found places to charge en route using Electrify America, a network of public chargers that Volkswagen agreed to create as part of its settlement with the U.S. over the company’s emissions scandal. 

“We have our favorite places to go where there are plenty of chargers, and we always meet a lot of other EV drivers there,” said Upton. “It’s a lot of fun actually, to stop and charge.” 

EV Incentives

New York’s Drive Clean program offers a rebate of up to $2,000 off the purchase or lease of new electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. More information and a list of eligible cars can be found at bit.ly/ny-ev-rebate.

The federal government offers tax credits of $7,500 for new electric or fuel-cell vehicles, up to $4,000 for used EVs costing less than $25,000 and up to $40,000 for commercial vehicles that are plug-in hybrids or run on fuel cells. Visit bit.ly/fed-ev-rebate for more information.

Central Hudson offers an “EV Time of Use Rate” for electric-vehicle owners, who pay a lower rate when charging during off-peak hours — after 7 p.m. and before 2 p.m. Information on the program can be found at bit.ly/cenhud-ev-rate.

According to New York’s EV dashboard, the state has 7,854 Level 2 chargers, which can take four to 10 hours to refresh a battery. There are 18 in Beacon’s ZIP code and four in Philipstown. Many EV owners also install Level 2s at home because they are faster than regular outlets and cars can be recharged overnight. 

New York also has a network of 1,194 fast chargers, which are more ideal for long trips because they are capable of recharging a battery up to 80 percent within 20 minutes. But most of the state’s fast chargers are part of the robust network owned by Tesla and reserved exclusively for owners of its vehicles. 

The company owns the nearest fast charger to Beacon and Philipstown, at the Hudson Valley Towne Center off Route 9 in Fishkill. (Tesla announced in February that it would open part of its network to non-Tesla drivers.) 

“They’re everywhere on every major highway, certainly in New York state and throughout the Northeast,” said Garrett, who has driven his Tesla as far as Killington, Vermont. 

Josh Garrett owns a Tesla Model Y that he and his wife bought in May 2021. (Photo by L. Sparks)

Garrett explains how his Tesla is charged. (Photo by L. Sparks)

New York already had existing programs to encourage businesses and municipalities to install chargers, but Hochul in September announced federal approval of its plan to use $175 million over five years from the Infrastructure and Jobs Act of 2021 to deploy more fast chargers along major interstates, including I-84 between Port Jervis (near the Pennsylvania line) and Connecticut. 

Along with more chargers, the prices of EVs are expected to fall and the variety of available models and average driving range grow. Garrett says the idea of owning an EV can be intimidating because it requires adapting to new ways of fueling and requires planning for long road trips.

It becomes “a lot less scary” with experience, said Garrett, who sometimes revisits the past when using the 2016 Honda CRV his family still owns. 

“Going from the Tesla back to this 2016 model — not ancient, but not new — it’s like I’m going back in time 100 years,” he said.

2 thoughts on “Owners Get Charge from EVs

  1. I have been an electric-vehicle owner since 2018 and am so happy to see adoption increasing. I would love to see more DC fast chargers instead of the slow Level 2 chargers. DC fast chargers can charge in 10 to 20 minutes while the Level 2 chargers at the DMV parking lot could take four to six hours. When we consistently block the chargers with the Beacon Farmers Market or close the fire station lot, it leaves EV owners out dry. It’s like closing all the gas stations in town every Sunday.

  2. Thank you to Leonard Sparks and The Current for another excellent article on an important topic.

    One fine point: Sparks points out that “the cost of owning an EV is unaffordable for many drivers.” I would narrow that statement. The “initial purchase price” of owning an EV is unaffordable for many, but the “lifecycle cost” of an EV is actually less than that of comparable gasoline models. That’s true for two reasons.

    1. EV fuel — electricity — is about 25 percent of the cost of gasoline per mile driven. (My household saved more than $2,000 fueling two EVs last year.)

    2. Maintenance costs are extremely low. EVs have roughly 20 moving parts, compared to about 2,000 on gasoline-powered cars. Moving parts require maintenance, wear out and need repair or replacement. In five years of EV ownership, my only maintenance costs have been wiper blades, windshield washer fluid and new tires.

    In short, the lifecycle costs of EVs are actually lower than that of internal-combustion-engine vehicles. As battery prices continue to fall, and a wider price range of EVs become available, their value will become even more apparent. In the meantime, better financial incentives and financing options are essential to increase access across all income levels.

    Montuori is the executive director of Sustainable Putnam.

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