Fast-Charging Networks for Electric Cars: A State-by-State Guide

By · March 11, 2014

Charging at Mount Hood

Opening day for the AeroVironment fast charger at the Skibowl near Mount Hood in Oregon. (Jim Motavalli photo)

I am in Portland, Ore., riding shotgun in an Enterprise car-share Nissan LEAF, taking a 100-mile-range EV far further than it normally goes in a day. That's because Oregon and Washington have a Pacific Northwest network of DC fast chargers, including what Harry Dalgaard of Travel Oregon describes as “the first fully electric coastline in the country, from Astoria in the north to Brookings in the south.”

Ashley Horvat, Oregon’s chief EV officer (the first such title in the country) is along for the ride. She tells me the network of AeroVironment stations (37 in Oregon) was paid for with $915,000 in stimulus funding via the Department of Energy (10 stations) and $3.34 million in Tiger II discretionary funds from the Department of Transportation (the rest of it). Oregon also has 20 other DC fast chargers from other projects. Washington State has 26 fast chargers, 12 of them AeroVironment and funded by the state DOT.

The AeroVironment CHAdeMO chargers (all of which have Level 2 units alongside) got our LEAF mostly filled up in about 20 minutes, and all functioned well—though an out-of-network Blink fast charger (now operated by the Car Charging Group) in a Walmart parking lot was D.O.A. during our visit. Here's the early stages of that visit, on video (and the noisy rain):

The network is a partnership with Oregon’s tourist office, so EV owners can access five detailed vacation itineraries online, as well as 170 suggestions. I attended the installation of a charger at the base of Mount Hood, so skiing is now accessible by EV.

Charging at Mount Hood

Attendees witnessed a number of snowboarders clear a Nissan LEAF, at the Mount Hood Fast Charger grand opening party.

Oregon (which has 4,000 plug-in cars registered) and Washington are far from the only states with DC fast-charging networks. Here’s a highly selective rundown of what’s available in some other states.

North Carolina: The state has 1,600 plug-in cars registered, said Tyler Bray, transportation project manager for Advanced Energy. That’s a 133 percent increase from the first year of sales in 2012. According to Sean Flaherty, a senior planner at the Centralina Council of Governments, a network of 30 DC fast chargers, half of them Eaton units and the rest supplied via local Brightfield Transportation Solutions with solar backup, will be strategically located around the state by April 30. Nissan North America is a partner, and Flaherty said, “LEAFs use the CHAdeMO standard, so that’s the priority.” A SAE converter will be offered as an extra-cost (maybe $6,000) upgrade if the sites ask for it.

Tennessee: The state was slow to roll on EVs, despite hosting the factory for the Nissan LEAF and its batteries. By summer 2011, although it was targeted by the EV Project for concentrated charger deployment, less than 1,000 EVs had been sold. There are now 321 public chargers in Tennessee (15 of them are Quick Chargers), and newer data shows that EV drivers there are really using the cars. LEAF drivers in Knoxville are using public chargers at a higher percentage than anywhere else in the country, including San Francisco and Los Angeles. The average LEAF owner in Nashville travels 32.2 miles a day, compared to 29.2 miles for the country as a whole. Since 2011, in partnership with eVgo, Tennessee has had a 12-station fast-charging network installed by and at Cracker Barrel restaurants in a circle around the state (in Texas, too). The state is now looking into building a network of DC chargers along Route 40 from the Mississippi River to the North Carolina line. According to state spokeswoman Molly Cripps, "The project has yet to launch and is still considered to be in the planning phase."

Note that many of the Nashville-area Nissan dealerships have CHAdeMo stations.

Oregon LEAF

A well-traveled Enterprise rental LEAF on the road in Oregon. (Jim Motavalli photo)

Connecticut: Good news here, because not only are there more than 1,000 plug-in cars on the road (not terrible for a state with 3.5 million population), but there are two Tesla Superchargers deployed along I-95, and good public Level 2 support at the municipal level. According to Anne Gobin, a state environmental official, two highway service plazas now have fast chargers installed (funded by Northeast Utilities), and another “is in design.” She adds, “We are also preparing to go to bid for a vendor to build out and operate a comprehensive fast-charging network along all major transportation routes in Connecticut.” That program is not yet fully funded. The chargers on I-95 (others on the Merritt Parkway are under construction) are CHAdeMO-compliant, and will have SAE Combo capability installed later in 2014. The official goal is available public charging always a short drive away. Hey, it's a small state.

Massachusetts: Massachusetts has impressive stats: 202 public chargers (eight of them are DC Quick Chargers) and 2,600 electric vehicles (575 with special EV license plates). It still doesn't have much in the way of state incentives for consumers, but a task force is studying that. Subsidies are available for fleets through the Massachusetts Electric Vehicle Incentive Program. "We are working on a workplace incentive program as well as some funding for DC fast chargers," said spokeswoman Amy Mahler.

California: The state has the most robust fast-charging network in the country, including along the I-5 West Coast Electric Highway it shares with Washington and Oregon. It now has 40.96 percent of the national battery car market and 47.18 percent of plug-in hybrids, according to new state figures. State plug-in sales now approach 200,000. One hang-up, however, is the slow-moving deployment of the 1,040 charging stations that are pledged to be installed as part of a settlement between NRG Energy and California regulators. By the end of last year, just 110 of those had been installed, with NRG citing “unanticipated problems,” including some reluctance among property owners to host chargers—even when they’re free.

Oregon doesn’t seem to have that constraint, and Horvat says that property owners there have been eager to get EV owners’ business. We got fast-charged while eating homemade pie at the Berry Patch.

New to EVs? Start here

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