NYC targets electric vehicles in latest smart city moonshot

City government is turning to the tech community to achieve a 20 percent electric vehicle adoption rate by 2025.

New York City’s smart city innovation program, NYCx, has announced a new challenge that is counting on tech startups to amplify electric vehicle (EV) use and deploy a web of charging stations across the city.

Mayor de Blasio said in a release Monday that the city’s innovation program, NYCx, which launched in October, is adding the EV challenge to its ongoing series of “moonshot challenges” that also include a contest to increase internet connectivity in New York City. The goal for the EV challenge is to help the city achieve its goal of having 20 percent of all registered motor vehicles electric by 2025.

“We are continuing to be aggressive in addressing the threat of climate change,” de Blasio said. “NYCx is mobilizing tech to accelerate our actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and calling on the disruptors and tech experts to join.”

To sweeten the deal, the city has put up a purse of $80,000 that will be divided between four finalists to develop their solutions. The winning startup has the opportunity to have portions of its solution incorporated into the New York EV Charging Roadmap, an effort that could result in a city contract.


Yet like its connectivity challenge that uses New York’s Governor’s Island as a test bed for the new technologies, NYCx will allow EV finalists to try their products and services in real-world conditions. Locations have yet to be announced.

New York City Chief Technology Officer Miguel Gamiño said in a statement that will allow the city to unite around a global issue.

“The superpower of the public sector is collaboration and partnership to solve common global problems.”

The EV challenge launches near the time of the two-year anniversary of the global Paris Climate Agreement that committed 195 jurisdictions around the world to reduce emissions. Despite the White House’s more recent decision to pull the U.S. from the accord, de Blasio has promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent from 2005 levels by 2050. 

Because motor vehicle traffic accounts for roughly 30 percent of the city’s total greenhouse gas emissions, de Blasio’s administration says it sees electric vehicles as a crucial technology to fight global warming. To aid the work, the administration plans to dedicate an additional $10 million to construct fast-charge stations around the city.


City Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said past investments and increased support for its entrepreneurial community are expected to move the city closer to its climate goals.

“As the city embarks on an ambitious program to expand electrical vehicle charging infrastructure, we look forward to the innovative ideas arising from this challenge that will inform our own approach and maximize the usage of EV charging stations,” Trottenberg said in a press release. 

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