Living in the Bay Area, I’m used to the abundance of great green start-ups blazing new trails nearby, whether its Berkeley pioneering PACE, Emeryville where Amarys boils up its Algae, San Francisco where 1BOG is perking in a cool SOMA warehouse, Silicon Valley with all those cleantech businesses, even Fremont now has a new Tesla factory… but doesn’t every region have that town most unlikely to make it into green news? Sleepy, rural, oil stained, fast food, big box-riddled Vacaville is that town.
Yet it is Vacaville, I read in Wired, that is pioneering – despite having fewer than 100,000 inhabitants – the nation’s very first Level 3 DC rapid charger for electric vehicles!
A visionary EV enthusiast as city transportation manager put Vacaville out front on this, in a move sure to make this particular pink-roofed Vacaville Sonic Burger off 1-80 at Davis Street a new destination spot for the Bay Area. Chip in a few dollars a month to help support independent cleantech coverage that helps to accelerate the cleantech revolution!
The town was blessed for years with a city transportation systems manager, Ed Huestis, who believes in the future of clean transportation. He leveraged Federal funding over ten years ago to put in charging stations for the ill-fated EV1 (that led to the Volt, due out this year), and he still regularly charges his 1990’s Toyota electric RAV4 at this location. This pioneering charging station is actually Vacaville’s 45th public charging station, thanks to Ed Huestis.
The DC Fast charger is one of seven EV chargers installed at the long solar powered charging “island” you can see on the google map, behind the Sonic Burger, at a city owned parking spot.
Their electricity is supplied by a solar roof that churns out more power than the quick charger and the location’s existing six charging stations typically need. As Huestis says, it’s a deal for the city, because the 45 kilowatt solar roof supplying the electricity is now paid for.
“This is a great spot for the quick charger because we’re not going to have a bill.”
The DC quick-charge station is what’s called Level 3. Normally you’d charge at home while you sleep, on the sort of 220 V plug you have for the clothes dryer, or on a 110 volt plug (Level 1) if you sleep eight hours.
Rapid higher level charging is for “garage orphans” who live in condos or rent, or it’s for rest stops on long trips, or in shopping centers where you’ll get some errands done in half an hour while recharging. Most Americans drive under 40 miles a day, and can recharge at night while they sleep.
This is not the only fast charger, just the first so far in the US, and it costs $40,000. (Nissan is also bringing 11,200 more chargers to five states. Of those, 260 will be quick chargers and only cost $17,000. They’ve been making them for a bit in Japan, with 182 installed, so the cost is coming down.)
At about 50 miles from San Francisco, the East Bay and Marin, and less to abundantly solar powered Sacramento, the seat of California state government, this spot is within the range of the LEAF (100 mile range) and the Volt (40 miles as an EV, then 10 miles “extended-range”).
This unit was installed by Pacific Gas & Electric as part of a CARB grant to research fast charging, including user acceptance, grid impact and power quality. it’s able to fast-charge the iMiEV to 80% in half an hour.
Wired reports that the display on the rapid charger showed that the iMiEV they test-drove there charged half full in under seven minutes.
Just enough time to go grab a Sonic Burger. Mmmm…
Vacaville is beginning to seem like a real destination!
Once I pick up my LEAF, powered off solar panels I’m finally getting installed this summer (now that it costs nothing upfront), I’m going on up to – yes – Vacaville!