It’s been nearly a year now since modern electric vehicles really hit the mainstream with the release of the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf to complement offerings from niche automakers like Tesla. A year on, what’s changed in the EV sector? Well, not a whole lot, but the market is growing.
Battery performance remains a big issue for potential EV buyers. But range anxiety may be waning, as the BEV Leaf had outsold the PHEV Volt by nearly 3,000 units as of October. In either case, supporting infrastructure is a key to success, in the form of available high-voltage charging stations to limit downtime for drivers. We must say, however, that vast networks of charging stations are likely not the end-all solution to boosting EV popularity.
We’ve covered a number of interesting new EV initiatives from around the country this year. Let’s take a look back, as they are all good case studies concerning the rollout of newfangled infrastructure tech.
As much as an advertising boon as it may be, charge stations installed by retailers don’t offer much to customers. Even a Level 2, 240V charger still takes around four hours to charge the average EV, which means a minimal top-up for all but the lengthiest shopping trips.
Walgreens, which already has installed 800 charging stations and counting, has thus made 480V DC charging a priority. DC chargers can provide a full charge in as little as 15 minutes, which means a single shopping trip could also mean a full battery. At the moment, the company plans on installing 150 DC stations nationwide, a number severely hampered by the power infrastructure.
NRG Energy in Texas opened its first eVgo Freedom Station in April, which included a high-speed DC charger. The privately funded network aims to have 70 stations in Dallas/Fort Worth and 50 stations in Houston in its first rollout, all of which will be equipped with DC chargers. Once the network is in place, drivers in either city will never be more than five minutes from a station, as long as they stick within the city limits.
The price of speedy charging — NRG claims its DC chargers add 30 miles of range in 10 minutes — is a flat monthly fee of $49 to $89, with the $89 package being basically an unlimited plan. That includes access to chargers at home and on the road, which essentially means a flat fee every month for commuters that’s far less than the estimated $169 monthly gas bill the average U.S. driver pays.