Originally published on Gas2.
Auto manufacturers are often criticized, and rightly so, for their lack of interest in building the fast charging infrastructure that will permit electric car drivers to venture far from home without fear of running out of juice. Tesla is pouring millions into its Supercharger network, but the rest of the industry has been content so far to wait for taxpayers or private enterprise do the heavy lifting.
Kudos, therefore, to BMW and Volkswagen, which have partnered with ChargePoint to build fast charging facilities along both the east and west coasts. On Tuesday, the three companies announced the completion of two express charging corridors — one from Boston to Washington, DC, and another from Portland, Oregon, to San Diego. In all, the corridors have a total of 95 DC fast charging stations. Grants from the US Department of Energy helped move the project along.
Each charging location along the Express Charging Corridors has either 50kW or 24kW DC Fast chargers equipped with the SAE Combo connectors used in the BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf electric vehicles. Many locations also offer CHAdeMO connectors. All stations are publicly available and can be easily accessed with the ChargePoint mobile app or a ChargePoint card, or for BMW drivers, a ChargeNow card.
Yes, all you Tesla fans out there, we know all your Superchargers operate on much higher power, but give the rest of us a break from your constant chest thumping for a bit, will you? Not every car on earth is a Tesla and for those who drive something else, this is very welcome news.
If one private company is leading in the campaign to have the most chargers in its network, ChargePoint is it. At the end of August, it announced it had activated its 30,000th charging spot at Hamilton Place Mall in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “Our mission is to get everyone into an EV, and as the number of EVs on the road increases, we’re building features that ensure charging and driving an EV is a seamless experience,” says Pat Romano, ChargePoint CEO.
ChargePoint is devoting much of its efforts to condo and apartment dwellers — two groups that often find it hard to charge their electric vehicles at home. “Infrastructure that doesn’t contribute to increased rent is a challenge for [building owners] to invest in,” Romano says. “So you have to figure how to have a recurring model to the driver that doesn’t break the economics of owning an EV (which makes the driver happy) but that balances the amount of upfront investment that has to be made by the property owners. Because there’s quite a sensitivity to infrastructure costs versus return on rent. We think we’ve figured that out.”
That solution appears to involve ChargePoint setting a recurring monthly fee for the property owners on top of the cost of the electricity. The EV drivers then reimburse the building owner for the electricity used.
“Corridors are a good start,” Romano says, “but you need every highway covered in the US at a practical distance to make the statement to consumers ‘there’s no place you can’t get.’ We think it’s every 75 miles to start. The reason gas stations are more often is if you spaced gasoline stations that far on highways, you’d need 100 pumps at every site, and it’s not practical to take up that much real estate at one spot. You plan to start with two to four ports and let that expand as each site can handle.”
“What we’re already doing with these corridor programs is sitting literally on the property of something to buy or do,” Romano said. “What’s interesting is that those businesses are embracing it. They say, ‘You mean someone’s going to be spending 20-30 minutes? That’s a captive audience!’ When you’re on a long trip, you don’t mind stopping every 200 miles because that’s between three to four hours — you’re going to want to walk the dog, get snacks, and so on.”
In other words, everybody wins, especially EV drivers.
Reprinted with permission.
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