Judge Dismisses Suit Halting $102 Million California EV Infrastructure Deal

By · October 16, 2012

eVgo

Utility company NRG is set to provide thousands of charging stations sold under its "evGo" brand thanks to a settlement with the state of California.

A California appeals judge has dismissed a lawsuit by EV charge provider Ecotality against the state’s Public Utility Commission that would have blocked more than $102.5 million in spending on charging infrastructure stemming from a settlement with power company NRG. The settlement results from a CPUC claim against NRG subsidiary Dynergy, which overcharged Californians by more than $900 million for electricity during the state’s 2000-2001 power crisis.

In March, governor Jerry Brown announced details of the deal, under which NRG will provide 200 480-volt fast-charging stations, the vast majority of which will be spread between the San Francisco Bay Area and Greater Los Angeles. The utility also agreed to provide wiring to make 1,000 California residences, businesses and other buildings EV-ready, and to install the groundwork for as many as 10,000 Level 2 charging stations.

The deal would roughly triple the number of charging stations available in the state in less than five years, and bring the total number of fast-chargers from just a handful to more than 200. In many urban areas, it would become possible to drive a couple hundred miles in a car like the Nissan LEAF over the course of a day with two 30-minute stops at a fast-charging station.

A Faustian Bargain for EVs?

In one fell swoop, the state government aims to lay to rest any concerns prospective EV buyers might have about there not being enough available infrastructure to support the technology. But not everyone agrees that the conditions of the agreement are a step in the right direction for the vehicle electrification movement.

“This is simply a privatized network that, with the blessing of the state, will likely cause more harm than good in the long run,” said EV-advocate Chelsea Sexton to the San Jose Mercury News in April. Sexton and others like Electric Vehicle Strategic Council co-chair, Steve Kinsey, are concerned that the deal will have the effect of establishing a monopoly for NRG in the nation’s most vital EV market, pushing out companies like Ecotality and removing competition from the market.

For the first five years after installing a station, NRG can’t require EV drivers to pay a monthly subscription fee, as it does with its eVgo Network in Texas. Instead, the public will have open access on a pay-as-you-go basis. Fees for fast charging are capped at $10 per session during off-peak hours, and $15 during peak hours. Depending on current gas prices, such a fee structure could make topping up an EV more expensive on a per-mile basis than driving a gas-powered car.

“The deal gives them a huge advantage over others that are investing investor money, not settlement money,” said Ecotality after it filed the suit. “They can literally saturate the market and cherry pick the best real estate.”

The proposal may not be fair, but it's moving forward. Moreover, it could be the best chance for the EV adoption movement to rapidly transform the charging infrastructure landscape in the next few years. While opponents might argue that thousands of empty charging stations could potentially send the message to drivers that EVs are a failed technology before the market has had a chance to mature, the flip side of that argument is that a robust charging infrastructure could send the message to potential EV buyers that charging locations are abundant, and it's finally time to make the switch to an electric car.

Comments

· Objective (not verified) · 1 year ago

Nothing from any contributors yet on A123 bankruptcy?

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 1 year ago

If I lived in California I would just be concerned as to who is paying for this and specifically, how much money is involved...I live in an area with very few public stations, however, I don't want to force people who have no interest in paying for these things to share my love of EV's if they are not so disposed.

· · 1 year ago

15 dollars per charging session. It costs $0.50 to full charge my volt at home so it is 30 times more expensive or the equivalent of $135/gallon.

· JP (not verified) · 1 year ago

Looks like A123 just filed Bankruptcy.

http://autos.yahoo.com/blogs/motoramic/battery-builder-a123-won-249-mill...

· David Knox, eVgo (not verified) · 1 year ago

The fast charging DC chargers give you 50 miles of range in 15 minutes and is designed to give an EV owner range confidence so that they know that they have a fast charging option if they need a range boost if their commute will take them close to or beyond their vehicle's range. An EV owner's primary fueling station is most likely their home or workplace but when you need a bit more range, a DC charger can allow you to be on your way in minutes.

· Paul Scott (not verified) · 1 year ago

I sell the Nissan LEAF, so I have a vested interest in this matter. I also advocate for the rapid transition from oil to renewable electricity for personal and mass transportation for reasons beyond my personal gain. It's crucial for our survival as a civilized society that we stop wasting oil for this purpose when renewable electricity is ubiquitous, cheap and easy to generate.

As a LEAF salesman, I can assure you that getting fast charging in the ground will greatly improve sales of this technology. I have had two cars returned within a week of their sales because the new EV owners could not access fast charging. Many others have not yet made the jump for the same reason.

As for Ecotality claiming this gives NRG an advantage, maybe so, but the greater good is served by making this network operable sooner. Ecotality has had almost two years to get their fast chargers in the ground. I was promised by them that they would have several in the ground well before now, but to date, only a single fast charger is operable in the city of Los Angeles. Contrast this with Chicago which reportedly has at least 29 fast chargers.

It's well past time that petty arguments over who has the right to what property on which to install these systems keeps them from being installed. I say let's get this ball rolling now!

· MarvyMarv (not verified) · 1 year ago

Smear as much lipstick on that pig as you like, the public is going to balk at paying several time over the cost of charging. If I had a brick/mortar business I'd be installing free charging. And that's already happening here in town. All these EVSE salesmen are nothing but middlemen, trying to insert themselves between you and the existing infrastructure. Once all the grant money runs out, I see a bunch of expensive hardware swinging in the breeze and gathering dust.

· Spec (not verified) · 1 year ago

Do we know what kind of charger they will be? Combined ChadeMo and SAE-Combo would be best.

· · 1 year ago

No fast chargers here east of Tenn. So everyone who has access to them are lucky. I have emailed and called BLINK (ECOtality), Chargepoint and out local network called SemaConnect (MD based) about adding more infrastructure to the northern va area, and their response is "we area always looking for new hosts" so i suggested some. But for ECOtality pushing a state wide infrastructure, this would be great! In California I have strong feelings it will be asuccess, then other states could follow suit.

@Spec - It could be both or either or. Id see if the connecter was only one type, we would have adapters supplied with vehicles or at the stations (plugs) to adapt to our cars.

· · 1 year ago

I can't see how this wouldn't be a plus in the long term.

· Spec (not verified) · 1 year ago

@dutchinchicago

Amazing that your Volt has a fast-charge port. No other Volt has one. LOL.

· · 1 year ago

What car models can fast charge with these fast chargers from NRG. The volt cannot be fast charged, the tesla have his own dedicated fast charger. The leaf have a chademo receptable and if these 200 new fast chargers have the sae j1772 plug then which bev can use it ?

· Paul Scott (not verified) · 1 year ago

@ gorr, Currently, only the Nissan LEAF and Mitsubishi i can use the Chademo standard. Other than Tesla, there are no other fast charge-capable cars sold in the world. That will change eventually.

· · 1 year ago

All good comments. Great discussion. We need a AMEN button on this site. LOL!

TN I guess can be called the home of the LEAF has chargers popping up everywhere. People are seeing the LEAF's everywhere due to all the Nissan employees leasing them here and the chargers are popping up to accomodate. Which comes first the chicken or the egg. Nissan is now going with cheaper leases so this may get people moving to buy with the current increase in gas prices.

· · 1 year ago

@Spec, "@dutchinchicago

Amazing that your Volt has a fast-charge port. No other Volt has one. LOL."

He doesn't need one. He has an engine to get him home, WITHOUT searching for and wasting time and money at fast chargers that ultimately reduce the life of the batteries.

· · 1 year ago

@Michael,

I think you missed Spec's point. dutchinchicago's comment almost implies that he would use a fast charger on the Volt. Why else would he make such a comparison for price of a "charging session"? A charging session for a Leaf will get you twice as far as a charging session for a Volt.

· · 1 year ago

I live in the SF Bay Area and drive a LEAF, and I have no sympathy for Ecotality whatsoever. The bottom line is that they failed miserably to install fast chargers in a timely manner, as they promised they would, and as such they've been a poor project manager for the EV Project. This has compromised LEAF sales and has certainly caused me plenty of inconvenience. Plus, their DCFCs are often on the fritz and they don't have any notification system. I once showed up on empty at the Belmont station – it was functioning according to the Blink map – and found it to be broken. I had to charge down the road at level 2 until 1am. Sorry Ecotality, but I don't feel sorry for you.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 1 year ago

Ecotality is another great example of how private enterprise has failed to deliver and in fact tried to block the development of EV infrastructure to attempt to hold a monopoly of their own. As it turns out NRG, also a private company is paying for the new infrastructure because the ripped off Californians in the first place. I think this is an excellent example of how 'big' government took a bad situation created by a greedy private company (NRG) and used that as a stick to beat another poorly managed private company Ecotality into getting off their butts and creating an EV infrastructure. While NRG may end up with a monopoly on charging stations I suspect that won't happen because companies like Ecotality are now incentified to get off their butts and COMPETE!

· Bob Atkins (not verified) · 1 year ago

Ecotality is another great example of how private enterprise has failed to deliver and in fact tried to block the development of EV infrastructure to attempt to hold a monopoly of their own. As it turns out NRG, also a private company is paying for the new infrastructure because the ripped off Californians in the first place. I think this is an excellent example of how 'big' government took a bad situation created by a greedy private company (NRG) and used that as a stick to beat another poorly managed private company Ecotality into getting off their butts and creating an EV infrastructure. While NRG may end up with a monopoly on charging stations I suspect that won't happen because companies like Ecotality are now incentified to get off their butts and COMPETE!

· · 1 year ago

@Bob Atkins,
There is no private enterprise with Ecotality/Blnk. It is entirely funded by government pork. I'd say that it and the NRG fiasco are both indications of how we shouldn't leave something as important as our transportation up to the government.

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