The Year of the DC Fast Charger?

One of the most significant barriers to successful widespread adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) lies not with the car, but with the plug. Getting quick charge—a top-off in a matter of minutes—requires specialized equipment that can handle great amounts of current at once. Charging stations, or Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE), make up the backbone of an electrified transportation system. Like the familiar gas pump, charging stations enable EV drivers to travel far beyond the range of the vehicle’s battery. It’s no wonder, then, why EVSE is a critical part of the effort get more Americans behind the wheel of an electric vehicle. Major automakers, utilities, and other businesses have charged into 2015 with a series of aggressive plans to greatly increase the availability of charging stations on U.S. roads. Last month’s Washington Auto Show in D.C. and this week’s Electric Drive Congress have proven to be good opportunities to get the word out on expanded EV infrastructure, with BMW, Volkswagen and PG&E making major announcements.

BMW is teaming up with Volkswagen and ChargePoint to install around 100 new CCS Fast Charge stations on the East and West Coasts. The eastern corridor will cover the stretch from Washington, D.C. to Boston, while the Pacific “CCS Highway” will contribute to the already vast charging network between San Diego, California, and Portland, Oregon. Apart from dotting the major regional highways with the high-powered charging equipment, the partners will also install a smaller network of lower-power DC fast chargers in less-traveled areas off the main corridors. The CCS Highways will feature both CCS and CHAdeMO technology, a hat tip to a competing standard and evidence of the companies’ dedication to the overall concept of electric mobility. Not to be outdone, California utility Pacific Gas & Electric Co. announced Monday that it would pay for the construction of 25,000 electric vehicle chargers in the Golden State, further cementing the state’s status as the nexus of EV adoption in the United States. While each station would support traditional Level 2 AC charging, 100 points along major transit corridors will also accommodate DC fast charging. Part of the West Coast Electric Highway, the DC fast chargers will contribute to an network designed to power EV drivers from Southern California to British Columbia. Positive developments aren’t limited to the West Coast and Northeast, though. Georgia Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company, announced this week a plan to offer rebates of $250 to homeowners who install new Level 2 AC chargers in their homes, helping to offset the cost of going electric. Georgia also promotes vehicle electrification through a $5,000 tax credit that continues to promote fuel diversity in the state while reducing maintenance and fuel costs. Even during this period of relatively cheap gas and low oil prices, it is important to note that the major automakers, utilities, and other businesses are committed to developing EV infrastructure on a national scale—evidence suggesting that few expect the current oil price slump to last forever in this period of record market volatility.