The Solaire is a LEED Platinum-certified green apartment complex on the lower tip of Manhattan, with breathtaking views of the Statue of Liberty. You get fresh filtered air, digital thermostats, stormwater cachment and energy efficiency. And, oh yes, thanks to a state grant, up-to-date electric vehicle charging.

“We have 293 apartments, and at least 50 have cars,” says Michael Gubbins, who manages the property. I’ve seen Teslas, Chevy Volts, even a Fisker.” At least some of the time, the EVs charge from a 35-kilowatt rooftop solar system. “We’re seeing a lot more use of the stations,” Gubbins said.

It’s definitely true that when it comes to electric cars, California is so far in the lead that no other state is even close. According to Polk data, the Golden State has 22,783 registered plug-in cars, and the next nearest is Washington State with a mere 2,873. The top three California counties have more electric vehicles than any other state in the union.

But things are changing. And which state is very up-and-coming when it comes to EVs? New York. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) announced last week that it is spending $1 million to install more than 80 public charging stations around the state. “The state is taking a very proactive approach,” said Francis Murray, Jr., the CEO of NYSERDA.

In 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo awarded $4.4 million to bring 325 charging stations to New York. Earlier in the year, he’d created Charge New York, an EV promotion program with a commitment of $50 million over five years. The goal is 3,000 public and workplace chargers by 2018. And, of course, Mayor Michael Bloomberg (below) is committed to EVs big time. The city operates more than 450 plug-in cars, and more than 100 Chevrolet Volts. Some 50 are being added in 2013. The city has 120 fleet chargers, and is adding another 30 this year. Check out this national map, and you'll see that New York is becoming a significant cluster for EV charging, though California still rules.

“Everybody sees California as a big leader, and it is, but from October 2012 to January 2013 the EV growth was only 48 percent,” said Scott Miller, a vice president at ChargePoint, which has installed 11,000 stations, including most of the public infrastructure in New York. Starting from a smaller base, New York’s EV population grew a healthy 76 percent, making it number two most improved.

Warm weather makes a difference for EVs. In California, 61 percent of all the EVs sold are battery electrics. In New York, it’s only 13 percent—plug-in hybrids are much more popular, because battery performance suffers in cold weather, and you’re really asking for trouble without a lot of public chargers around. Now cities like Syracuse and Albany are getting charging stations.

The Car Charging Group, dominant in New York, has put ChargePoint stations in parking garages operated by Icon, Central and Edison. Where else are they going to go? “Manhattan doesn’t have restaurants that accommodate curbside parking,” said Miller. Indeed, street space is at a premium in the city, so those garages and ground-level parking lots are about it.

New York won’t catch up with California’s head start anytime soon, but “it’s laying the foundation to become a leader in the nation for electric vehicles,” said Pat Romano, president and CEO of ChargePoint.

Jim Motavalli ( @jmotavalli ) writes about cars, technology and the environmental world to anyone curious enough to ask.

New York: If electric vehicles can make it here...
new york ev charging gains