Electric Vehicle Charging Network Expands in California

Drive the ARC, a network of 57 public chargers stretching from Monterey to Lake Tahoe in California, has been completed. It offers electric vehicle drivers an escape from what is known as "range anxiety."

by / June 21, 2019
Shutterstock/J.D.S

One of the more anxious moments for electric car drivers comes when the vehicle’s battery is in need of a charge, and it’s not clear where that boost will come from.

The phenomenon, known as “range anxiety,” is enough to discourage many buyers from choosing an electric vehicle. And it’s why projects to expand the number of public charging locations, and make them easier to access, is a top priority of electric vehicle advocates.

A new project, known as Drive the ARC (Advanced Recharging Corridor) placed 57 high-speed chargers along 26 locations on major roadways in California, linking Monterey on the Central Coast to Lake Tahoe on the state’s northeast edge — a distance of about 300 miles. Two of the units — located in Redwood City south of San Francisco and Pinole in the North Bay — are fast-chargers capable of delivering about 90 miles of range within roughly 35 minutes of charge time. The chargers are part of the EVgo network and can be reserved ahead of time, using the Drive the ARC app.

Infrastructure like the latest network of chargers in Northern California help to encourage the use of electric vehicles beyond “early adopters,” say advocates.

“Charging infrastructure must be visible to consumers to show that there is a convenient, available and ample system for refueling an electric car,” said Gennet Paauwe, a spokesperson for Veloz, an electric vehicle advocacy group based in Sacramento, Calif. “As more people see the cars and the charging infrastructure growing in their region, the more likely they are to consider an electric car for their next ride.”

Since 2011, nearly 595,000 electric vehicles have been sold in California, according to Veloz statistics. By the end of 2018 electric vehicle sales were making up nearly 8 percent of new car sales in the state, according to the site EVAdoption.

The Drive the ARC demonstration project is a partnership between the United States and Japan to encourage EV use and adoption. It was funded by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Organization.

“Adding high power chargers and the reservation system trial to the project are going to help us to better understand EV users’ driving and charging needs,” said Scott Becker, senior vice president, administration for Nissan North America, in a statement.

EVgo, based in Los Angeles and the largest public charging network in the nation, recently announced interoperability agreements with ChargePoint and EV Connect, allowing users of those networks to access the EVgo system. Public charging networks like these generally require EV owners to sign up for the service and access the charging ports via an app.  Rates differ depending on the plan and region of the country, but generally cost about $1.50 an hour. Research shows most electric car owners choose to recharge their vehicle at home, overnight, which is largely considered the most economical approach.

Other roadside fast-charging projects include the West Coast Electric Highway, which runs from Canada to southern California along major roadways like Interstate 5. Also, high-profile wine regions like the Napa Valley in California and the Willamette Valley in Oregon actively promote those wineries with public charging in their parking areas, allowing tourists to recharge while they sip. 

Skip Descant Staff Writer

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.

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