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EVgo Goes Plaid With New Ultra-Fast Charging Station In Baker, California

EVgo has flipped the switch on a new bank of fast, super-fast, and ultra-fast EV chargers that help plug-in vehicle drivers conveniently make the run from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

EVgo has flipped the switch on a new bank of fast, super-fast, and ultra-fast EV chargers that help plug-in vehicle drivers conveniently make the run from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

The new installation brings two 50 kW fast chargers, new 150 kW and 175 kW super-fast chargers, and a 350 kW ultra-fast charger to the popular gas-and-go town of Baker, California. The chargers include a bank of second-life batteries to store up cheap power and push it out to charging vehicles in order to mitigate the steep demand charges from the utility that typically eat into the cost of delivering power to vehicles charging at high rates of speed.

The new bank of chargers sits underneath a solar canopy to provide shade during the toasty summers that see temperatures break 110°F (43°C). Those temperatures will be on full display at the nearby “world’s tallest thermometer,” which has been one of the staple roadside attractions along the I-15 from Los Angeles to Las Vegas since its installation in 1991.

Setting The Bar For Ultra-Fast Charging

The new station features both CCS and CHAdeMO, as do all of EVgo’s fast chargers, which enables drivers of a wider variety of electric vehicles to make use of the stations. Having multiple chargers at the single location lets the drivers pick how fast they want to charge or, more likely, provides another nozzle to charge at if one of the other stations is full.

Even at its current volume of vehicles on the road, Tesla found that its Barstow Supercharger a few miles up the I-15 was seeing very high volumes, so it took action by: increasing the number of stations to 16, adding another 18 stations in Yermo a few miles away, and dropping in a massive 40-stall Supercharger+Storage charging station in Baker that looks very similar to Tesla’s Kettleman City Supercharger + Lounge.

The new EVgo installation opens up the floodgates for EV drivers with ~150+ miles of range to comfortably make the drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and will surely serve as the litmus test for EV charging companies considering fleshing out the popular corridor with more EV charging locations.

“By increasing the number of chargers and offering a variety of charging speeds for both CCS and CHAdeMO standards, we are giving EV drivers the chance at their fastest possible charge between Las Vegas and Los Angeles — including Tesla drivers who use a CHAdeMO adapter,” Cathy Zoi, EVgo’s CEO, said of the new chargers. “EVgo’s Baker fast charging hub with solar, storage, and super-fast EV charging right at the World’s Tallest Thermometer shows how the EV industry is really heating up.”

With a 40-stall Supercharger a few blocks away, I don’t expect that the station will see many Tesla drivers, but it is always good to have the option and speaks to the ability of EVgo’s stations to offer a charge to a wide variety of vehicles.

Prior to the recent expansion, the station hosted two 50 kW fast chargers that served as one of the critical links for EV drivers looking for a fast charge on the way to Las Vegas. When I drove from Ohio back to California with our Model S at the end of 2015, I stopped off at Las Vegas for CES. Charging network coverage of the I-15 has only improved since then.

The new 350 kW EVgo charger is able to crank out power faster than any production vehicle is able to use for charging, but it speaks to the constant tension between supply and demand in this world. Charging speeds are limited by the vehicle as part of the digital handshake with the charger, so today’s generation of plug-in vehicles will be able to charge at all of the stations that have the correct charging adapter for them but at a rate limited to the maximum speed the vehicle can accept. EVgo is testing the waters to see what demand looks like for the route as it plans future investments into super-fast charging and ultra-fast charging.

Energy Storage

Perhaps as impressive as the charging speeds and new stations is the fact that the station includes energy storage. The BMW 2ndLife energy storage system being used at the new EVgo station was developed in partnership with the state’s forward-thinking California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to demonstrate and explore the possibilities of combining ultra-fast charging with stationary energy storage.

The system uses four battery packs pulled from BMW i3s that were then bundled into two separate energy storage systems for the new EVgo station. Each pack is rated at 30 kW / 44 kWh and controlled by a site-level controller that optimizes the state of charge of the batteries to mitigate the impact of demand charges. The Baker site is the second EVgo charging station to make use of this technology, behind the existing charging station using storage in Union City, California.

Solar + Storage + EV Charging

The overhead solar panels on the installation aren’t just for show — the 20 kW system produces power that offsets the usage of the system while providing shade to patrons and their vehicles while they charge. Pairing solar, storage, and EV charging is something Tesla has been planning to do for years for its Supercharger network, and it is exciting to see the idea coming to life, albeit from another charging network operator.

The flying V configuration of the solar array is not optimized for solar output but the 20 kW system will still provide a significant amount of output in Baker’s sunny climate. It also serves to help EVgo understand how solar, storage, and EV charging play well together, and at what sizing. Are larger solar systems needed to support faster EV charging stations? What is the right battery capacity (kWh), type and power (kW) for a 350 kW charger? Many questions exist today, and installations like this one will help the industry to understand what the optimal EV charging system looks like.

With this station sitting out in the wild along a route popular with gas and diesel vehicles, it may have to be a route we try out the next time we’re reviewing a vehicle.

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I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in Tesla, Lightning eMotors, Arcimoto, and SolarEdge.


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