Poking around the Plugshare & ChargePoint maps it’s clear that a long-awaited West Coast inter-city deployment of fast charging stations has begun. Last January, ChargePoint, BMW and Volkswagen jointly announced a project to deploy two strings of fast charging stations, one on the West Coast the other on the East Coast. A careful look at the maps shows that indeed the stations are now being built, and that gaps in the West Coast long distance fast charging network are being plugged.
It’s now almost possible to make a SF Bay Area to Los Angeles trip solely with CHAdeMO, and even more so for owners of ComboChargingSystem vehicles. The gap between Sacramento and the Oregon border is still there, but a CCS station installation in Redding is a good sign of things to come. The gaps are being closed not just by ChargePoint, but by NRG’s eVgo network, so we still have to maintain memberships in multiple systems.
The deal announced last Winter by ChargePoint, BMW and Volkswagen was to build out a couple hundred stations along highway corridors on both the West and East Coasts. Some would be dual-protocol (CHAdeMO and ComboChargingSystem) stations, which ChargePoint is sourcing from Veefil. Those stations run at 45 kiloWatts (or so) for a reasonably fast charging rate, about 160 miles gained per hour of charging. Other stations would be CCS-only units running at 24 kiloWatts and sourced from BMW. While 24 kW is a slower charge rate than 45 kW, it’s still a usefully fast charge rate, and the lower expense of those stations should encourage a wider rollout.
While there has been sufficient fast charging deployment in most urban areas, inter-city fast charging deployment has been almost nonexistent. Which has made us look longingly at Tesla’s vehicles and their proprietary coast-to-coast fast charging network. Even a car with 100 miles electric range could take a significantly long trip if there are fast charging stations along the way. Taking a long trip while relying on 6 kiloWatt charging, either at a level 2 station or via a NEMA 14-50 outlet at an RV park, is doable but would be frustrating because of the charging time required.
Sacramento – Portland – Seattle
A CCS-only installation in Redding CA begins to close one of the inter-city gaps. It’s a BMW station, so limited to 24 kW, but it starts to close the gap. The gap between Sacramento and Redding has several level 2 charging stations that might be close enough to drive. Between Sacramento and the SF Bay Area is more than enough level 2 and fast charging stations so an EV driver can already easily enough make that trip.
North of Redding is a lightly populated mountainous region. Those who’ve driven through there have carried their own 6 kiloWatt charging station, and stopped at RV parks along the way to use NEMA 14-50 outlets.
North of the Oregon border is an extensive network of CHAdeMO stations spreading across most of the state, and north of the Washington border is a similar network that’s not quite as well developed. ComboCharging support north of the Oregon border is spotty.
SF Bay Area – Los Angeles – via US 101
Newly installed fast charging stations along this corridor make it almost possible to make the entire trip on fast charging. Part of the gap is being filled by eVgo, but the ChargePoint/BMW/VW project is making its presence felt here.
At the Gilroy Premium Outlets Mall, where there’s already a Tesla Supercharger installation and a couple Blink stations, eVgo just installed a Freedom Station. This supports CHAdeMO and ComboCharging, and includes a level 2 charging station.
In King City, ChargePoint just installed a BMW CCS-only 24 kW station. That city is the key to closing the middle portion of this gap, too bad it’s CCS-only and not a dual port station. There is a level 2 station elsewhere in King City however.
In Pismo Beach is another BMW CCS-only 24 kW station on ChargePoint.
In Buellton, is a newly installed ChargePoint dual-port charging station supporting both CCS and CHAdeMO. Nearby in Solvang is an eVgo Freedom Station that’s been there for awhile.
South of there is a sufficient density of both CCS and CHAdeMO fast charging stations to make it into the Los Angeles area with ease. One is a newly installed BMW CCS-Only 24 kW station in Goleta.
South of Los Angeles it’s easy to reach San Diego by fast charging with either CCS or CHAdeMO using existing stations. The ChargePoint/BMW/VW alliance may have built some stations in this area, but I’m not going to bother looking to find out.
Sacramento – SF Bay Area – Los Angeles – via Highway 99
For some reason Highway 99 has more charging support than I5. In any case, there is a string of fast charging stations, mostly eVgo Freedom Stations, connecting from Livermore into the Central Valley, along Hwy 99, to Bakersfield and thence into Los Angeles.
Bakersfield – Los Vegas via I15
There’s a long stretch of road between these cities, and gasoline stations are even few and far between. For this stretch you’re still required to carry a 6 kW charging station and stop at RV parks. Unless, that is, you own a Tesla Model S/X/whatever.
Sacramento – Reno via I80 or US 50
This is another stretch that’s covered primarily by eVgo Freedom Stations. But you can’t make it all the way through the mountains on fast charging alone, you’ll have to stop at level 2 stations or even carry a 6 kW charger for use at RV parks.
In the mountains south of this corridor there are some level 2 stations, and lots of RV parks so carry your own 6 kW charger.
These inter-city gaps are starting to be filled with fast charging support.
Surprisingly eVgo has been deploying inter-city charging stations. Their original plan had been to focus on urban areas, but many of these gaps are being filled by eVgo. It could be that eVgo’s plan for each is to cover the city in which these stations are installed, because the stations aren’t always installed convenient to the highways.
Inter-city fast charging support should be built next to highway interchanges next to the gas stations serving existing travelers along the highways. But the eVgo Freedom Stations are instead typically installed at malls that aren’t always near the highway. The Salinas location for example is about 3 miles from US 101, at a shopping center at the far edge of Salinas from the main highway. This decidedly isn’t convenient for highway travelers, but is likely convenient for Salinas residents.
The ChargePoint/BMW/VW project has so far installed stations next to highway interchanges. These are clearly meant for highway travelers. We’re hoping to see more of these, and are excited that the inter-city gaps are starting to be closed.
This focused on the West Coast – I’m trusting that some similar activity is occurring on the East Coast. I asked ChargePoint for comment last week, and they didn’t reply. In June they’d told me the goal was 100 stations for “this year” (2015), that they’d “broken ground on several” station locations and identified over 100 potential locations. They promised to be in touch “in the near future” with further information.
At the moment I see doubt whether ChargePoint will reach the 100 station goal by the end of the year.
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