2021 Update on Non-Tesla DC Fast Charging Station Density in North America

By Paul Gipe

Oklahoma on Top–Maybe

My, my, how things change. I’ve been tracking non-Tesla DCFC station density for the past three years as a prod for the Golden State to get its act together. See Update on Non-Tesla DC Fast Charging Station Density in North America (2020), and California Lags in DC Fast-Charging Station Density for Electric Vehicles (2018).

We like to think we’re the greenest of the green here. My point was we weren’t. We’d fallen behind the Canadians—yes, the Canadian provinces of Quebec and British Columbia in the Great White North.

Finally, Electrify America and California brought on line a string of stations that I’d been waiting for. The state program was a nearly five-year long wait, but their stations are now up and running and I can get to where I want to go. So I had little interest in examining station density again. Been there, done that.

That is, until the Wall Street Journal called.

I don’t get many calls from the Journal and I don’t bother to answer all of those. This call was from the news side and they wanted to talk about DCFC station density. Now I was on the hook.

While I was talking to the reporter I thought I should pull up the numbers and see if my rankings had changed. Sure enough California had moved up from fourth place to second place behind Quebec. (Those Canadians again.) That slew of new stations in the California Energy Commission’s program had made a difference.

Well, it was the Journal and a lot of people still read it so I thought maybe I should do the whole table over again. There might be other changes worthy of the Journal’s attention.

While I spend a lot of times with spreadsheets, I am not an Excel jockey. (I don’t even use Excel.) I am sure there’s a way to take all the data from the Alternative Fuels Data Center and sort it to get what I want. Or I could find a human at NREL to do it for me. (The National Renewable Energy Laboratory manages the Data Center for DOE.) But I didn’t want to take the time to either learn Excel or wade through voice mail hell to find a human at NREL.

So I looked at all the states and provinces I’d done before. That much I can do. Then I pulled up PlugShare and looked for concentrations of DCFC stations across the continent. That’s when something popped up that I wasn’t expecting.

What were all those orange markers in the middle of the country? As I drilled down it looked like they were concentrated in . . . Oklahoma. What the?

Oklahoma! The oil & gas state that gave birth to fracking king Aubrey McClendon and the climate change-denying US Senator James Inhofe had a slug of DCFC stations strung out along major highways. Surprisingly, they weren’t all concentrated in Oklahoma City or Tulsa.

Sure enough when I pulled up the numbers Oklahoma topped the list in ports or as NREL calls them “outlets” relative to population.

Unfortunately, this data has been less than reliable in the past. Some networks were double counting ports. NREL had promised to correct the problem last year. And when I examined stations that had been at issue, the problem seemed to have been corrected—or so I thought.

I drilled down to the networks in Oklahoma. The bulk of the stations in the state were installed by Francis Energy using a state program originally intended to aid natural gas fueling stations. Previously unknown in the EV world, Francis Energy had made its name in oil & gas. Now they were staking out turf in the rapidly evolving world of fast charging.

Drilling down further, I looked at a Francis’ station in Tulsa. AFDC says their Reasor station has seven ports. There are only six kiosks or dispensers at this site according to PlugShare. Each has two cables but can only charge one car at a time. The data was off, but not by much.

I then looked at sites elsewhere. PlugShare shows that the Francis station at Westminster Village in Oklahoma City has only four kiosks. However, AFDC reports eight ports at this site. That’s clearly wrong.

Then I tried the Hilton Garden Inn in Lawton. PlugShare reports that this site has eight kiosks. AFDC lists this site having 16 ports.

There’s obviously a problem either with NREL’s data analysis or with the data submitted by Francis Energy.

The continuing problem with AFDC’s listing of port density requires us to revert to the less representative measure of station density. This substantially changes the ranking.

Oklahoma, because of Francis Energy’s network, is now in the top five. California falls to fifth place from fourth in 2020.

Canadian provinces again top the list. This time New Brunswick has beat out neighboring Quebec. British Columbia has fallen to sixth place. Ontario has fallen out of the top ten as Doug Ford’s anti-EV efforts have begun to bite.

Oregon continues in the top five. Washington State has fallen out of the top five but remains in the top ten.

In contrast to leaders like California and New Brunswick that have 30 to 50 stations per million people, laggards like Pennsylvania have barely five stations per million people. New Brunswick has ten times the station density as the Keystone state.

What’s with those Canadians anyway? Don’t they know EVs don’t work in the cold. . .