Southern California Air District Targets Grocery Stores as Quick Charge Locations

By · September 26, 2013

EV charger at Kroger

A Level 2 electric car charger at a Kroger. To be truly useful during a grocery store visit, much faster DC chargers are required.

Starting in 2014, electric car drivers will be able to fast-charge their vehicles at selected grocery stores in California. The South Coast Air Quality Management District is behind a $1.2 million project that will install 20 smart-grid enabled fast charging stations at grocery stores on freeway corridors.

“This project is important to Southern California because it will help create a viable DC fast charging network that will be accessible, convenient and affordable for plug-in electric vehicle drivers,” SCAQMD spokesperson Tina Cox told PluginCars.com.

The fast chargers will be installed at Albertsons and Ralph’s grocery stores in the South Coast Air Basin, which includes all of Orange County, and the urban portions of Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties.
In April, grocery chain Kroger—which operates under the name Ralph’s in some locations—announced it would install 200 Level 2 chargers and 25 fast chargers at its stores at 125 locations in Phoenix, San Diego and Los Angeles, among others.

The new quick chargers, coming by virtue of SCAQMD, will include CHADeMO plugs and also the Society of Automotive Engineers so-called combo-plug if it is available when deployment begins in 2014, said Leslie Baroody, EV Program Manager at the California Energy Commission. The CEC is giving the SCAQMD a $300,000 grant towards the total cost of the project.

The Key: Dwell Time

“The main reason for grocery store charging infrastructure placement is because of parking availability, and driver dwell time consistent with the time it takes to charge and electric capacity is usually sufficient at these sites,” Baroody told PluginCars.com.

Fast charging can take as little as 20 minutes for drivers fueling up to about 80-percent of its battery pack’s capacity. It could take another 10 or 20 minutes to fill an electric car all the way up. Regardless, visits to a grocery store—depending on what you need to pick up and which register you choose—make a nice match for quick charge times. And, explaining the interest from grocery store chains, there’s evidence that shoppers stay longer in stores, and buy more, when they know their car is receiving juice.

Nissan is also a partner in the SCAQMD project, and the agency is currently seeking more partners, said Cox. That includes a DC fast charger provider, who will be chosen through a request-for-quote process, and an educational outreach consultant.

CHADeMO, a fast-charging plug standard developed in Japan, is the standard for the Nissan LEAF and the Mitsubishi i-Miev. The SAE combination plug was approved and published in October of 2012. In the U.S., the Chevy Spark EV is currently the only EV compatible with the SAE plug.

The SCAQMD is a pollution control agency that gets much of its funding from fees that polluting businesses pay. Motor vehicles account for more than two-thirds of the district’s pollution, according to the AQMD, and vehicle registration fees are an important funding source. So boosting the number of electric vehicles will help clean up the air in the district, but if successful in promoting a lot more EVs over the long run, could decrease the amount of funding received by the AQMD.

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