Oregon Cities Consider Moving EV Chargers That Aren’t Used

By · January 04, 2015

Electric vehicles charging at Cafe Yumm! in Eugene, Ore.

Electric vehicles charging at Cafe Yumm! in Eugene, Ore. (Photo: PlugShare)

In the race to build electric car charging infrastructure, the focus over the past four years was placed on quantity—rather than the quality of the locations. That’s the message you get from this week’s article in the Register-Guard in Eugene about the many idle public EV stations in Oregon.

For example, each charging spot in Eugene’s public garages is used an average of once every two weeks, according to the story. The public chargers that were installed throughout Oregon via The EV Project were used only four percent of the time. The purpose of The EV Project, which was granted more than $100 million of federal funds, was to bolster consumer confidence in electric vehicles, by making it easy to find an electric car charging spot. However, given past uncertainty about EV adoption, many of the approximately 3,000 Blink Network public chargers (supported by The EV Project) were placed in locations that get infrequent use.

In some cases, property owners were reluctant to dedicate parking spaces for charging stations in workplace and public parking lots, pushing charging station installation to less desirable spots. “They were put in the wrong places,” Wahid Nawabi, a senior vice president of AeroVironment, a maker of charging stations and the operator of its own charging network, told The Register-Guard.

In addition, it’s no secret that the vast majority of electric car charging takes place at home. Most EV owners re-fuel at home—rather than in public—because home charging is generally cheaper and more convenient.

Making Adjustments

The question now is whether to put equal focus on re-locating poorly utilized stations, instead of continuing to focus on the expansion of networks. Officials in Springfield, Ore. last year asked the Car Charging Group to move seven of the 10 Blink chargers from downtown because some were barely used. “We want to work with them, but their responsiveness leaves something to be desired,” said Courtney Griesel, from the city’s economic and community development division.

In addition to problems related to questionable locations, most of the stations bought and deployed via The EV Project, are Level 2 240-volt stations, which commonly add about 20 to 25 miles of range in an hour of charging. More recently, public and dealership-based networks are adding the faster DC Quick Chargers that can add 50 or more miles of driving range in less than 30 minutes. The faster charging rate is generally considered to be a better deal than the Level 2 chargers, which many EV drivers utilize at home.

As next-generation EVs add more driving range—perhaps as much as 150 to 200 miles on a single charge—the need to charge for local or regional trips will likely decrease. At the same time, Quick Chargers along highway routes for road trips could become more desirable. The network of Superchargers installed by Tesla Motors focuses almost exclusively on highway-based charging to extend trips, rather than in-town routine charging.

In 2013, Ecotality, the company that managed The EV Project, went bankrupt. The company’s assets, including the Blink Network, were acquired in 2013 by Miami-based Car Charging Group. Yet, according to The Seattle Times, Car Charging Group lost nearly $11 million in the first six months of 2014.

Car Charging Group announced last week that it raised nearly $6 million with current institutional shareholders to strengthen the company’s balance sheet. “This capital raise occurs as CarCharging prepares for further expansion in 2015," said Michael Farkas, CEO of CarCharging. Farkas said that the transaction allows the company to grow and improve operations, including “unlocking the value of our significant equipment inventory.”

EV supporters, like Mark Beauchamp, the owner of Cafe Yumm! in Eugene, continue to believe in the environmental benefits of electric vehicles. Many also remain committed to public EV charging, despite the lack of use of some stations. “The purpose was to show the public that these chargers exist,” said Beauchamp. “This is real and it’s happening in your community, not some faraway place.”

New to EVs? Start here

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  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
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