NRG's eVgo Fast-Charge Network Seeks to 'Revolutionize' EV Travel

By · October 26, 2012

eVgo Freedom Station

Last week, a California appeals judge dismissed a lawsuit seeking to block a settlement that would see at least 200 fast-charging stations installed throughout the state in the next five years. The settlement resulted from a California Public Utilities Commission claim against the power company NRG—which had acquired a company that defrauded Californians out of hundreds of millions of dollars in their electrical rates. Earlier this year, governor Jerry Brown announced a deal with NRG under which the company would provide a lot of public charging, including about 200 480-volt charging stations clustered mostly in the state's largest urban areas.

The reason NRG was in a position to make such a bargain is that it owns eVgo, an electric vehicle charging infrastructure service that sells all-inclusive charge access packages to plug-in drivers for a flat monthly fee. So far, eVgo has only launched in Texas, where it has completed installation of 32 fast chargers spread between Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth, but it has plans to soon expand into California and the Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia area.

The Big Build-Out

NRG's enthusiasm for the electric vehicle charge market is evidenced by the hundreds of millions of dollars it has committed to invest in building eVgo's "Freedom Station" fast-charge network, which it says is "the nation's first privately-funded electric vehicle ecosystem." The company's chief executive, David Crane, owns several electric vehicles himself, and advocates for renewable energy investment.

In Texas, NRG says it saw an opportunity to build out its public charging network early in the game. "This is a fledgling market," said David Knox, communications director for NRG EV Services, in an interview with PluginCars.com. "Investing in it is a perfect opportunity to position yourself as a provider of choice."

While Knox points out that California's electric vehicle market is at a significantly more advanced stage, being the first major player in the fast-charging game still has its advantages. By staking out prime fast-charging locations before other providers have had a chance to build up their networks and offering attractively priced packaged charging deals to early EV drivers, eVgo should be well-positioned to compete in California as well.

The Terms

Under the conditions of the California deal, access to the new eVgo fast-charging network would initially be available to all through a pay-per-charge fee structure capped at $10 to $15 per hour depending upon time of day (eVgo hasn't yet decided upon the exact rates.) Of course, for drivers interested in using these fast-charge stations on a regular basis—say, four or more times per month—signing up for eVgo's monthly subscription service will make financial sense. In Texas, the company's public charging subscription fee is $39 per month, though access to its Freedom Stations there is by subscription only.

All-inclusive home charging packages are also available. For $89 per month, eVgo offers unlimited home and public charging. The kicker is that subscribers to this package don't have to buy or install their own home chargers—eVgo effectively rents you the equipment it uses to sell you energy for your car, similar to how your cable provider rents you your cable box. The cost of the equipment is included in the $89 monthly fee, provided that subscribers commit to a 3-year contract.

Lot of Opportunities to Add 50 Miles in 15 Minutes

NRG sees comprehensive fast-charging networks as a key measure for facilitating early EV adoption. "Getting to the speeds that you're talking about with these DC chargers is what is necessary to really make people feel that [public charging] is a viable option, says Knox. "You're not going to get that trying to charge a 100-mile vehicle on a Level 2... We feel that this is going to revolutionize the ability of EVs to be seen as a transportation option for the masses."

According to eVgo, its Freedom Stations can add as much as 50 miles of range to a vehicle in just 15 minutes, compared to the 12-25 miles of charge per hour offered by Level 2 chargers. Though the process for selecting sites hasn't yet been finalized, Knox says the chargers will be positioned so that drivers can travel between California's major hub cities using the eVgo network to recharge along the way.

The last remaining regulatory barrier for the project is gaining approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Once FERC signs off, eVgo will begin the process of selecting sites and building out the network, culminating in at least 200 Freedom Stations at the end of five years.

Comments

· · 1 year ago

"Knox says the chargers will be positioned so that drivers can travel between California's major hub cities using the eVgo network to recharge along the way."

Nobody is going travel like this, stopping every 50 miles, when you can buy a car that will go 400 to 600 miles on a tank of gas.

· · 1 year ago

@Michael,
I'm sure a lot of people will do it once or twice but, after that, they won't again.
That is why Tesla went with a car that could drive far enough to match the amount of time that people generally go between breaks anyway and they insisted their car could charge quickly enough to match typical 45 minute breaks.
Unfortunately, Nissan followed the TEPCO model where they discovered that the existence of a few 50 kW chargers scattered around takes the edge off of range anxiety in urban areas. This probably makes sense for urban driving but I, too am skeptical that this model will make sense or be at all profitable given that it only works with the short-ranged Leaf and "I".

· · 1 year ago

@ex-EV1 driver,
Totally agree.

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 1 year ago

Humm, just wondering who pays for all this and how much? How much does the user have to pay? Who pays the electric bill?

· · 1 year ago

Stopping multiple times to fast-charge a LEAF on a long trip makes no sense, as it's not even good for the battery, let alone the inconvenience.

That said, fast charging can be really nice in terms of enabling 100-200 mile drives in the LEAF, for those of us who aren't prepared to spend mucho dinero on a Tesla S.

· SPIKE (not verified) · 1 year ago

They should be forced to offer free eVgo subscriptions to California residents as part of their overcharging settlement but that would make too much sense. This reminds me of how Rick Scott bought the election in Florida with money he earned from overcharging the government Billions while at HCA!

I like the all inclusive plan but they should have a less expensive tier that only includes hoome charging, say around $40/month. And offer it at the car dealerships.

· · 1 year ago

I agree with most posters that fast charging probably isn't going to encourage anyone to drive their Leaf or Focus from San Francisco to Los Angeles. On the other hand, it makes a vineyard tour of Napa Valley easily within the reach of those drivers.

On another subject, is it possible to expand charge of an EV with an extra battery pack, similar to the way people buy accessories to extend the battery charge of their phones?

· · 1 year ago

@TrasKY: "is it possible to expand charge of an EV with an extra battery pack"

Short answer, yes. In fact, some have already added after-market capacity:
http://www.mynissanleaf.com/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=6065&hilit=enginer+range...

(sorry, I can't seem to find the link directly to the product)

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 1 year ago

I had to reread this article again. I'm not sure what the current situation is in California, but since NRG is primarily a generator and has nothing to do with the regualted utility, isn't a billing revenue meter necessary somewhere with each of these chargers, or if several in one location, then each Bank of chargers?

For home use, if NRG 'pays' for the juice, do they go through the significant effort of having a separately billed service just for the evse? I assume the home is level 2 only at this point.

· · 1 year ago

@Brian Schwerdt Thanks. That is helpful. i would think, speaking hypothetically about a science fiction world in which someday I hope to some day live, that better than fast charging stations would be widely available, fully charged battery packs that can be plopped in the back, front or both of a car to extend it's range. If the plugs were standardized and the batteries sufficiently energy dense, one can imagine long trips with refueling stops at participating Stucky's or Speedway's to exchange one pack for another. You may say I'm a dreamer but really i'm just thinking out loud.

· hxp417 (not verified) · 1 year ago

For this kind of travel, the real deal is the bullet train, which can go 200+ miles an hour without burning a single drop of fuel, but, Americans are too busy counting beans.

· · 1 year ago

@hxp417,

The problem with the bullet train is what to do at the other side. For example, I frequently visit family 250 miles away. The train obviously doesn't take me door-to-door like my car can. Plus, I have nothing to make the shorter local trips while I'm visiting. I make this trip far too often to want to deal with the hassle of renting every time. If I could load my Leaf onto the train, then I could deal with the train, but you're starting to get very expensive. Amtrak, which is subsidized, costs about 10x as much as driving, without bringing a car with you. A bullet train would undoubtedly cost more.

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