ALBANY (TNS) — The New York Power Authority’s effort to provide the state with electric vehicle chargers is stuck in low gear, with missed deadlines and nearly half of the state’s 62 counties still without the devices, it said an audit by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.
“Compared to what has been promised, the rollout of electric vehicle chargers has so far been a disappointment,” DiNapoli said in a statement accompanying the audit.
“As part of the government’s emissions reduction strategy to encourage more drivers to switch to electric cars, we still have a long way to go.”
The audit raises questions about what could happen in 2035, the year when a law banning the sale of conventional gasoline-powered cars, recently signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul, goes into effect. If the state doesn’t have enough charging ports for the electric vehicles, motorists could be stuck, or simply cling to older gas-powered vehicles or buy them out of state.
Promoting electric vehicles is seen as a lynchpin in the state’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change. However, sales of electric vehicles, which run entirely on batteries as opposed to hybrids, still make up a small portion of the state’s vehicle fleet. There are an estimated 91,000 electric vehicles in upstate New York, which equates to approximately 4.2 million vehicles nationwide.
The NYPA’s effort to install chargers isn’t the only such initiative. Tesla, the first manufacturer to offer electric vehicles, has its own chargers across the state, including those at some local malls and other high-traffic locations. Other private companies have installed chargers, and EV owners can charge their vehicles at home.
Still, the idea of ”range anxiety,” or the fear of needing a battery charge when there’s no charging port, is seen as a downside by many potential EV buyers. Most electric vehicles advertise a range of around 200 miles before needing to be charged.
Back in 2013, when NYPA announced the Charge NY program, the agency said it would install up to 3,000 EV chargers in five years. Then, in 2018, it said it would be 10,000 by 2021.
But as of June 2021, the NYPA had installed just 277 EV charging ports, or one for every 168 of the 45,608 registered EVs in New York, according to the Comptroller’s report.
It installed an additional 221 workplace charging ports at its own facilities and at facilities operated by companies that receive power from NYPAs and in government workplaces.
In addition, the audit revealed that the ports are not located where they are most needed. Counties with a high number of EVs have relatively few charging stations, while some counties have few EVs but a high number of charging outlets.
For example, Suffolk County, Long Island has 7,916 registered electric vehicles, more than any other county and about 17 percent of the statewide total. It has three NYPA public charging stations, or 1.2% of the total, and only one charger for every 2,639 electric cars.
On the other hand, Erie County, which includes Buffalo, has 1,898 registered electric vehicles, about 4.1% of the statewide total, and 42 NYPA public charging stations or one public port, each holding 45 vehicles.
Another 30 counties with 6,189 electric vehicles have no NYPA-placed public charging ports at all.
One of the issues the auditors found was that the NYPA underestimated the complexities of securing charging stations, particularly when it comes to obtaining leases or space on private property.
“Following the passage of legislation, the NYPA began negotiating land and found that negotiations between real estate firms and private companies were taking more (time) than anticipated,” noted part of the audit.
However, some of these obstacles are other branches of the government itself.
John Doran, who runs PlugIn Stations Online, which installs the newer fast-charging stations, said the company encountered a roadblock in Albany trying to install a charger near Albany Pump Station’s bar and restaurant. However, because it is located near the I-787 overpass, the state Department of Transportation stopped it and forced the company to find a new location.
Doran has also faced pandemic-related supply chain issues, which the NYPA also pointed out. “We moved mountains to get as many sites up and running as possible,” he said.
NYPA spokeswoman Susan Craig said in a statement the agency will “consider relevant recommendations as the agency continues to advance its public-facing fast-charging infrastructure program.”
She added that the NYPA operates the largest publicly accessible high-speed charging network in upstate New York.
“Despite numerous complexities that remain in the EV charging space, including connectivity issues, location identification and economic challenges, NYPA has made significant strides in installing chargers across the state,” she said.