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EV Charging on the Rise, with a Jolt from Car-Shares

EVgo, a network of public electric vehicle charging locations, attributes some of its recent success to the increasing popularity of ride-shares and the need for faster vehicle charging capability.

The expansion of electric-car charging infrastructure and electric car-sharing operations is signaling the latest trend in the growth of electric vehicles.

EVgo, an operator of fast, public chargers, experienced an 88 percent growth in 2018, with much of this growth coming from ride-share and ride-hailing, company officials say.

“The tremendous growth in EV [electric vehicle] adoption and fast-charging usage, especially among ride-share drivers, means that we can expand our network today in a number of markets with the confidence our infrastructure will be heavily utilized,” Jonathan Levy, vice president for Strategic Initiatives at EVgo, said in an email.

The term "ride-sharing" is often interchangeable with "ride-hailing" and generally refers to the services offered by Uber and Lyft. However, companies like Car2Go or Gig, which place rentable cars in a number of locations across cities, to be accessed via a mobile app, are also part of the ride-sharing milieu. In fact, Gig plans to deploy more than 140 electric cars across Sacramento, Calif., in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Lyft and Uber have both introduced programs to promote EV use. The Lyft app will soon include a “Green Mode” feature, which will allow riders to request an electric car, as the company plans to “introduce thousands of electric vehicles (EVs) onto our platform,” according to a Feb. 6 blog

Last year, Uber introduced its EV Champions Initiative, which offers drivers in select cities monetary incentives when they drive an electric vehicle. Also, riders matched with an EV driver receive an in-app notification offering information about electric vehicles in hopes of demystifying the technology.

“EVgo has ride-share partnerships in multiple cities in California, Seattle, Denver, Atlanta, D.C., and a number of other places,” said Levy. “Anywhere with a large ride-share market is ripe for EV penetration due to the economic benefits of EVs for drivers, especially high-volume mileage drivers."

“Longer-range EV models like the Chevy Bolt, new Nissan LEAF, Hyundai Ioniq, and more, are all perfect for ride-share application, and we’re seeing happy drivers and happy passengers benefiting from driving electric,” he added.

EVgo has more than 1,100 fast-chargers spread across 66 markets in 34 states, which helped to power more than 75 million miles last year. The company plans to double its fast-charging capacity by the end of 2020, said Cathy Zoi, EVgo CEO.

California remains the largest electric vehicle market in the country and the state broke year-over-year electric vehicle purchases in each month last year, according to Veloz, an industry group that tracks EV sales. EV cars sales were up 84 percent in California in 2018. More than 547,000 EVs have been sold in the state since 2011. More than 1,133,000 electric cars have been sold nationwide during the same period.

Fast-chargers, which can recharge an electric vehicle in minutes rather than hours are on the rise, with more than 100 locations under development in the U.S.

Shell New Energies, a subsidiary of the international oil giant Royal Dutch Shell, recently acquired Greenlots, an electric vehicle charging network similar to EVgo.

The merger will “intensify [Greenlots'] growth efforts and expand its range of mobility services to utilities, cities, automakers, fleets and drivers around the world,” according to a Greenlots press release. The merger will introduce new technology into the Greenlots system, freeing up the need for apps or cards to access a charging port. Cars equipped with Plug&Charge technology in North America can now simply access the system by plugging into it.

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.