Revving up the electric Rivian truck


Originally published in Long Island Herald

I’ve never driven a truck, never mind an electric truck – that is, until Rivian Automotive drove its truck, the world’s first electric pickup, to the Herald’s office in Garden City on Feb. 23, as they stump for a proposed New York state measure that could increase sales.

The truck exterior of the vehicle looked smooth, shiny and futuristic, with retractable handles and cylindrical headlights. The vegan leather interior was accompanied with a new-car smell and looked alike to many trucks – except for its electric dashboard, where the gas gauge was replaced with a battery percentage, and it’s large, 15.6 inch touchscreen, where features like the backup camera picture were displayed clearer than ever.

Electric vehicles could be the new norm sooner than later, as State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat who represents the 9th Senatorial District, and State Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy (D-Albany) are sponsoring a bill that will make EVs more available in the state.

In 2021, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced finalized contracts for the state’s largest renewable energy and transmission project in 50 years, which included goals to derive 70 percent of state electricity from renewable resources by 2030.

The project plans to put more EVs on the road – in 2014, then Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed 850,000 by 2025 and two million by 2030 – as gas-powered transportation accounts for 30 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Farmingdale, Executive Director Adrienne Esposito.

Switching to electric vehicles will reduce air pollution significantly. “Cars are mobile polluting machines,” Esposito said. “They produce carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter, all of which pollute our air, cause an increase in asthma, heart disease and respiratory ailments. Transitioning to electric cars will be good for the earth and good for our health.”

Right now, New York has achieved only 3 percent of Cuomo’s goal. This is because in 2014, a state law prohibiting the direct sale of EVs from manufacturers, specifically Tesla at the time, was passed after lobbying efforts by car dealers, banded together as the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association.

Nineteen states have no cap on the number of direct-sales locations, but New York has capped direct-sales locations at five Tesla locations. Kaminsky told the Herald that E.V. manufacturers such as the Rivian should be allowed to sell its vehicles directly to the public. Removing the state direct-sales location cap could accelerate the process of New York reaching its 2030 environmental goals.

Currently, if New Yorkers want to buy an EV. that is not a Tesla, they must go through other states, such as California, Massachusetts, Colorado and Florida, which allow EV manufacturers to directly sell and open dealerships in its state.

New York still restricts sales from companies like Rivian, Tesla and Lucid, but now, with more EVs entering the market, overwhelming feedback from environmental groups statewide, and a more-developed vision for a sustainable future, the state is considering legislation that would remove the restriction and increase the cap on direct sales of E.V.s.

The Automobile Dealers Association is pushing back on the legislation. “This is not about the environment or an 'old fashioned' group stuck in its ways,” the group’s communications person Nick Crispe said in an email. “This is about livelihoods and good paying jobs with healthcare and benefits in every community on Long Island with a network to provide electric vehicles to everyone who wants one. We are thrilled an excited by electrics and welcome the companies and their amazing vehicles but just ask that they play by the same rules.”