Behind Schedule, NRG Promises First Electric Car Quick-Charger in California “Quite Soon”

By · August 21, 2013

eVgo Freedom Station

An eVgo "Freedom Station," in Dulles, Virg.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) said in a press release on Nov. 12, 2012, that 200 new Quick Chargers for electric cars “will be available in early 2013” in California. Those public chargers were promised as part of a $100 million settlement with NRG—one of the country’s largest power generation and retail electricity businesses—for overcharging consumers during the 1999 California energy crisis. Nine months later, the first Quick Charger from the settlement has not yet been made available, with no definitive roadmap for when the charging stations will come online.

“We don’t have any stations announced that are public to be open for drivers today,” said Terry O'Day, director of California business development for NRG’s eVGo network. “It’s a little hard to put our finger on how many we could expect to be providing by when,” he said, in an interview with PluginCars.com. He promised an announcement “quite soon.”

Slow at First

“We are aware NRG to date has not completed any installations,” said Andy Kotch, a CPUC spokesperson, in an email to PluginCars.com. “But NRG remains obligated to complete the program over a four-year term, and we have sufficient information to confirm that NRG has been working diligently to find sites for their charging facilities.” Kotch said that the CPUC will continue to monitor NRG's progress. The schedule “contemplates a more rapid pace of installations in the later years,” said Kotch.

The CPUC agreement—which was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in November—requires that the 200 so-called “Freedom Stations” will be installed over a four-year period. According to O’Day, in the first year (2013), the agreement specifies that 40 stations will be made available, followed by 60 per year in the following two years, and 40 more in the final year. Freedom Stations have a single DC Quick Charger, as well as a Level 2 240-volt chargers and a stub for a second Quick Charger. A Quick Charger is capable of providing a full charge to EVs in less than 30 minutes.

“It’s an aggressive target,” said O’Day. He was not willing to commit to meeting the 40-station target by the end of 2013, but believes that NRG will have more than 100 stations available to drivers before the end of 2014.

O’Day explained that the process of installing a Freedom Station entails a long list of activities, including assigning contractors, signing up property owners, designing electrical systems and obtaining permits. “We have a good handle on permitting, and a couple of them fully permitted, so we’re ready to make announcements this year about our first opening.”

Fairness Questioned

When the settlement was first announced in March 2012, opinions were divided on the fairness of an energy giant being let off the hook for overcharging rate payers by promising to install EV charging stations—rather than making the settlement entirely in cash. Observers especially questioned that stations would require EV drivers to pay NRG for use of its eVGo charging network.

The settlement resolved a decade-old claim against subsidiaries of Dynegy Inc., including its power marketer and three power plant subsidiaries, then co-owned with NRG Energy Inc. (now wholly owned by NRG). Dynegy previously paid $280 million in settlement claims based on Dynegy’s spot market sales during the energy crisis.

When the settlement was announced, Nancy Ryan, deputy executive director for policy at CPUC, said, “The choice we had was to get the best deal today that was primarily in-kind with a cash component, versus continuing to litigate for years and years, and still maybe coming up with nothing.” The settlement includes $20 million in cash. Ryan is no longer working at the CPUC.

NRG can put stations where it likes, but within constraints: 55 stations in the Bay Area, and 110 stations in and around Los Angeles. The rest will be divided between San Diego County and San Joaquin Valley.

O’Day said that NRG will announce pricing plans very soon. “The agreement in the long run anticipates having a credit card swipe mechanism,” he said, opening the possibility that the first stations will require either subscription fees to NRG’s eVGo network, or for drivers to contact the network to activate a charge.

Comments

· · 1 year ago

So, they ripped of CA once and now they are ready to "rip off" CA plugin drivers again?

· · 1 year ago

Thanks for harassing them about this. I sent them an email the other day asking why we haven't seen any stations and got no reply.

· · 1 year ago

Have standards been adopted fro fast charging? If not what type are they going to install? Also, are they going to be combo (fast/ 220V) chargers?

· · 1 year ago

@Callajero - My understanding is that the first stations will be CHAdeMO, but that the stubs (put in for future expansion) will likely either be Combo Cord (or have multiple connectors).

· · 1 year ago

@Callajero What Brad said. eVGo uses CHAdeMO for DC quick charging (Level 3) and SAE J1772 for Level 2, at least for the stations near where I live.

· · 1 year ago

My understanding is that they planned to install DC-fast chargers that support both CHAdeMO and SAE-Combo. But such dual-chargers may not be ready yet.

· · 1 year ago

The standard is CHAdeMO, and there are thousands of cars in the U.S. ready to use it. The 2nd L3 "stub" on the charging stations is for CCS (aka SAE Combo, Frankenplug, etc.), a redundant and unproven L3 charging system introduced by American and German manufacturers to confuse the market and stall EV sales until they could catch up with Japanese EV makers (notably Nissan). At one point, GM was actively lobbying to prevent evGO from deploying CHAdeMO as part of this settlement, when CHAdeMO was the ONLY LEVEL 3 CHARGING SYSTEM COMPATIBLE WITH ANY CARS AT ALL. Fun fact - that's still the case, and will be until GM delivers Spark EVs with CCS sockets to California. Truth to tell, I wouldn't be surprised if phony "uncertainty" about standards generated by GM lobbyists and their legislative partners played some part in these NRG delays.

Fortunately for all of us, the whole CCS boondoggle appears to have failed in its key objectives. The U.S. will continue to build out CHAdeMO charging infrastructure and Nissan will not be forced to adopt CCS here, not least because Nissan has been motivated to aggressively push CHAdeMO deployments. Despite early disinformation to the contrary, American and European EVs will only offer CCS as an option, and we've yet to see any of these companies moving BEVs in volumes beyond minimum CARB compliance requirements. Add it up, and the worst case at this point is that we'll waste a little money adding support for the CCS "standard" to L3 chargers that will be used 90% of the time by CHAdeMO cars, since CCS is "supported" by manufacturers who have little interest in actually selling cars that can use it.

Compared to GM's original goal of screwing early EV adopters by deploying CCS-only L3 charging stations, that's a pretty decent outcome.

· · 1 year ago

. . . and yes, I should clarify, the above only applies to the U.S. As followers of this site know, the European Parliament has shown signs of accepting the self-serving arguments of its national champions and designating CHAdeMO as an "interim only" standard to be phased out in favor of THEIR version of CCS (Type 2, incompatible with U.S. Type 1 CCS - this is not a joke) a few years down the road. Facts on the ground during the "interim" period may change that, but for right now it's too soon to tell.

· · 1 year ago

Judging from the responses it looks like the standards have not really been formally adopted. It looks like some type of combo chargers are the way to go.

· · 1 year ago

It’s no wonder they are having problems placing these Freedom Stations. A retailer has to give up 6 parking spaces for 2 chargers. Parking is real estate, and some spots are valued at thousands of dollars. Is NRG sharing revenue with the host sites, or paying them rent for the space?

· · 1 year ago

Vike . . . do you have any evidence for this paranoid conspiracy theory of yours? How do we know that the reverse is not true. Perhaps Nissan and the Japanese companies got together and created a standard that they control and that will funnel all license fee payments to their Japanese Keiretsu. And then perhaps the Big 3 and German auto companies got together and created a standard using the normal automotive standards group, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) to create a more open standard that all can use without paying royalties to TEPCO.

· · 1 year ago

Where is the planning on this? FC stations make the most sense if they are installed along interstate highways in groups of at least four per location. Tesla does this, The State of California doesn't get it because they are still thinking ICEs.

Installing them in cities make no sense except for a few lucky people who live nearby...level two is for overnight and long term parking spaces like apartment buildings, etc. and that's where they should go in.

Look at highway I-5. What do you see in Washington state and Oregon? Yes, chargers along the interstate and they have already built out the locations for distance travelers. California is dragging its behind again and talking about how green it is when its all "chin music." Where is "Governor Moonbeam" in all this? I thought he was the green guy from California. What's the real agenda for this failed build out?

· · 1 year ago

Fota:You assume that no one ever visits cities, most people live so near they would never need a FC to get there and back. Not true. Although my I-MiEV does not have QC option(no QC capability in the Phila area at the time I leased),if there were stations I'd have purchased the option and would have plenty of opportunity to use it. Trips to the airport are out of my range(round trip is 75 miles or so, too far if using highways). Successful placement of QC facilities will be spread out between cities, towns, highways, etc. It would be nice to have the option of hitting a QC station after a full day of local driving when my range is low. I use Level 1 at home, nothing else, except for a few Level 2 charges at Walgreens and such. The best is to have a mixture of FC, L2 and L1, and a mixture of where they are situated. They all have their place in the mix.

· · 1 year ago

@Spec: The only aspect of my post that was theory was the motivation of the CCS backers, which I'll confess to having a bit of fun with. Even so, that theory is hardly original with me, and your alternate narrative is no more supported by the facts than my conjecture on that point.

Everything else is just as things are. CCS is redundant and unproven. GM lobbied to exclude CHAdeMO from all publicly funded L3 chargers and failed. CCS backers are so far only selling BEVs as compliance specials, and none have committed to including a CCS socket on every BEV they ship. So yeah, unless that changes, I'd say it is very likely that dual-format stations are going to wind up serving a lot more CHAdeMO cars than CCS for some time to come.

That's the reality, however much smoke the CCS crew want to blow in an effort to cover it up.

· · 1 year ago

@Callajero wrote: "Judging from the responses it looks like the standards have not really been formally adopted. It looks like some type of combo chargers are the way to go."

Just to clarify, in this context I think you meant to say "dual format" or "multi-standard" charging stations. "Combo" alas, is a loaded word, since CCS is also referred to as "SAE Combo", and I don't think you meant to say "CCS only" is the way to go.

But assuming you did mean dual format, then yes, I think that's the fairest overall approach unless and until the market settles on one standard or, as seems more likely, both are replaced by a new even higher-powered standard along the lines that big-battery cars like Tesla (and hopefully more to come) would need. That's the position of the CHAdeMO association, and one that I supported enthusiastically for some time.

As long as the CCS gang's self-serving efforts to kill off CHAdeMO in the U.S. and Europe seemed to be grinding away in futility, that was fine. My postings on this have changed in tone since these thugs managed to grease enough palms (or take compromising photos of enough MEPs, whatever) to advance the "kill CHAdeMO" idea in the European Parliament. Along with CCS backers in this and other forums becoming increasingly comfortable saying "Hey, CCS is the future, why doesn't CHAdeMO just go away?", this whole mess has exhausted my patience.

So, if dual-format strikes you as wasteful or silly, then by all means dictate one standard - but if you do, there is no rational argument that leads one to conclude that standard should be CCS. CHAdeMO has the installed base of chargers, the population of BEVs, exclusive status on the world's largest L3 charging network, and literally millions of hours of real-world charging experience by ordinary users. Against that, CCS is all hat, no cattle. It's no contest. And I've gotten pretty tired of this army of GM shills and euro-fanbois trying to tell us all that water's not wet.

· · 1 year ago

I actually meant combo as in Level 3 (or DC) /Level 2 with two or more connections, in case someone cannot use fast charging with their vehicle, or the vehicles needs are satisfied with level 2, or is is worried about reducing the life cycle of the batteries by using fast charging.

· · 1 year ago

@Callajero: Then I'm still confused as to your preference. I've made my own clear enough - dual format, but if people oppose that, then CHAdeMO only. But from "I actually meant combo as in Level 3 (or DC) /Level 2 with two or more connections", I really can't figure out what you mean.

The choices for L3 are CHAdeMO, CCS, or a dual-format charger that supports both (using separate cables/connectors). Level 2 is a separate matter, but as far as I know all or nearly all locations offering Level 3 charging (which has the standards problem being discussed) will also offer Level 2 (which is fully standardized so does not have this problem).

· · 1 year ago

@vike1108
If level 3 chargers offer level two also then I am OK with it. I m not sure if dual format (with two different level 3 types) t is very practical. I don't know enough to provide an opinion on which one is better, but a it makes sense to adopt a single standard before mass installations of level 3 charging in California.

· · 1 year ago

@Callajero: Then I'll provide an important piece of information. Dual format is not only practical, the major L3 charging station manufacturers are already deploying modular-design stations designed to accommodate multiple formats, largely because of this mess (but it's probably a good strategy for general purpose future-proofing). It's estimated that dual format support adds about 5% to the cost of each charging station, a cost that will quickly be recovered by the incremental business brought in by serving all comers. It's not an innovative or exotic idea, it's what's happening on the ground right now.

If I were putting in a charging station today, I'd buy a modular unit and deploy with CHAdeMO, because those are now the only customers. CCS could be affordably added if there proved to be demand, but I wouldn't spend the bucks until that was real and not "projected", and with sufficient discouragement across the board, CCS might never take off and I could skip the additional expenditure altogether. That's a no-lose strategy.

So yeah - if CCS wants to play hardball, that's where it goes.

New to EVs? Start here

  1. Electric Cars Pros and Cons
    EVs are a great solution for most people. But not everybody.
  2. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
    A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
  3. Federal and Local Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
    Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
  4. Guide to Buying First Home EV Charger
    You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.
  5. The Ultimate Guide to Electric Car Charging Networks
    If you plan to charge in public, you'll want to sign up for charging network membership (or two).
  6. Comprehensive Electric Vehicle Charging Guide for Businesses
    How do you ensure that electric car owners will be happy with every visit to your charging spot?
  7. How to Use the PlugShare EV Charging Station Tool
    Locate EV charging stations and optimize their use with a powerful mobile app.
  8. Guide to Quick Charging of Electric Cars
    Add 50 to 60 miles of range in about 20 minutes. Here's how.
  9. Calculating the Real Price of EV Public Charging
    Compare the cost of charging on the road to what you pay at home.
  10. Eight Rules of Electric Vehicle Charging Etiquette
    Thou shalt charge only when necessary. And other rules to live by.