DC fast chargers coming to California

by Ernie Hernandez on March 23, 2012

EVGO Charging Station200 fast chargers heading our way

Thanks to the mis-steps some ten years ago of Dynegy Inc., California will soon be on the way to a network of at least 200 DC fast chargers running from the Bay Area down to San Diego.

As an artifact of the Enron debacle, Dynegy settled ten years ago with the state of California due to their involvement. NRG Energy, parent of eVgo, acquired assets from Dynegy in 2006 and is responsible for the settlement. The settlement, in the amount of $120 million, will go a long way toward creating a viable fast charge infrastructure in at least half of the state of California.

$100 million of the settlement will go toward installing at least 200 DC fast chargers over a four year period and retrofitting 10,000 plus parking spaces in multi-family buildings, large work sites and public sites to accept electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE). Another $20 million will go directly to the California Public Utility Commission. With any luck, some of that may actually find its way into the EV arena. Areas covered by the agreement include the San Francisco Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley, Los Angeles basin, and San Diego County. Associated aspects of this infrastructure development are also included in the proposal.

We are cautiously optimistic that this infrastructure development will actually take place this time. We say this time, as anyone following the lack of development on the part of the EV Project can attest, “there’s a whole lotta nothin’ goin’ on” so far in that program. The reason for our optimism is that the direct involvement of the State of California in this process should improve the ability to gain approval, permits, etc as these projects move forward. We are particularly pleased to see the focus being the development of a fast charge network, as opposed to the installation of the much less useful 240-volt Level 2 chargers. Level 2 is great for plugging in over night at home. For electric vehicles (EVs) to catch on in any meaningful way, a large and convenient fast charge network is required. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris March 24, 2012 at 5:48 am

As you mention, this is part of a settlement for the illegal practices they got away with ten years ago (800% rate hikes, etc.). They fought the original lawsuit, lost – then fought the settlement. Now they’ve settled for $120 million (a fraction of what they stole from taxpayers), and $100 million of that they will pay to themselves via their subsidiary EVGo.
This is a large company thumbing their nose at their customers and the state. I expect EVGo profits to be huge, and actual EV infrastructure improvements to be meager.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) March 25, 2012 at 11:29 pm

Chris – the results of many, if not most, class action lawsuits benefit the defendant. Settlements often consist of rebates to be used against future product purchases. This requires yet another purchase. Or the rebate is never used which results in the defendant not ever being assessed the “penalty” of the rebate. In either case, the lawyers win (I hope you’re not a lawyer), and the defendant is not really economically deprived. We feel that the installation of these DC fast chargers will create greater awareness and help pave the way for others to install their own DC fast chargers.

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Tom K March 24, 2012 at 8:39 am

Better late than never… ;-/

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Tom K March 24, 2012 at 8:43 am
Ilya Haykinson March 25, 2012 at 10:05 pm

This is quite horrible news.

The EVGo product is perhaps the most outrageously expensive EV charging infrastructure play I’ve ever heard of. They seem to only allow people charge if they’re on a monthly plan. Since the cheapest plan that allows public charging is $79/mo, under the best assumptions (~20kWh of DC recharging once a day, in accordance with Nissan recommendations) this would make the car have a refueling cost huge. Given TOU electricity cost of ~$0.05/kWh, this would buy you 1580 kWh. This is enough to drive 6,320 miles or so. Assuming you drive your EV about a 1,000 mi/mo, you probably only need 250 kWh. Assuming all your charging happens at the EVGo network, you’re paying around $0.31/kWh, or about 3 to 6 times the prevailing rate.

That’s all fine if you just need a quick recharge. Heck, I’d pay even more for the convenience of a one-time recharge. But since you’re paying monthly, you are sinking nearly $1,000/yr into your refueling costs. This is about the amount of money you’d spend filling up a Prius with gasoline for the entire year.

In other words, it’s ridiculous. A monthly fee would have to be ~$15-20 to be usable by the general EV-driving population for “just in case” or range extension scenarios. They’d be a lot more open to paying $5-10 to recharge on the infrequent long trip, in my opinion, instead of paying this outrageous fee.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) March 25, 2012 at 11:49 pm

Ilya – currently the eVgo charging network in Texas has several charging plans that all include the installation of a 240-volt home charging dock as part of the plan. These plans may have an appeal to those who have no interest in installing a $2,000 (or more) EVSE unit in their garage. If one calculates the cost of the EVSE and the cost of electricity over three years, plus the convenience of being part of their network, it may make sense to some. For the rest of us, there are people like you, and me, and many of our readers, who will educate those that we talk to and tell them about alternatives. Such as the guy up in the Bay Area who is converting the supplied LEAF 120-volt charging brick to operate on either 120-volt or 240-volt power for about $300. If one can do this, why would anyone want to pay $50 to $90 per month to charge your car, when it can be done for less (perhaps much less)? The answer is – most of us won’t. eVgo is a business. If they can’t sign up enough people to pay their inflated rates, they will either reduce their rates or go out of business. Meantime – they are installing a much needed base – which I am inclined to believe that they will make available on a single use basis when they don’t meet their projections for plan members. Oh… and if they go out of business, quick thinking entrepreneurs can pick up the depreciated EVSEs and sell them or install them themselves.

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Ilya Haykinson March 26, 2012 at 10:37 am

I certainly hope that you are right. Of course it is reasonable that, like any business, they’ll respond to market pressure and make their rates something that more (most?) EV owners will find worth paying for. But so far I’m not seeing any indication from that company that they’re going to try to do so — you’d have expected them, for example, to offer a way to pay for a one-off charge in Texas, already.

Either way, I’m thankful that EV infrastructure is moving forward in California. I’m far less happy that it’s being done by these specific folks.

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