I was asked by a friend how to locate the free Caltrans DC Fast Charge stations in California. As in all things EV charging, PlugShare is your friend.
First, it’s important to note that there are more than 1,000 DCFC stations in California and more than 2,500 individual kiosks or dispensers.
Caltrans’ 30-30 program has installed only a limited number of stations, many with only one kiosk. There are four kiosks at the southbound I-5 station in Lebec and there are dual kiosks here in District 6 in the southern San Joaquin Valley.
The goal of the 30-30 program was to install stations at roadside rest areas and at district maintenance stations. As such, the number is limited relative to the commercial stations and the free stations offered by various auto dealers.
Some Caltrans’ stations are solar powered. Consequently, the batteries used for the station may be exhausted when you arrive to charge. The station’s power may be throttled as well. The Caltrans’ Camp Robert stations on northbound and southbound Hwy 101 are both limited to 30 kW.
Nevertheless, it’s useful to know how to find the Caltrans and other free chargers before you head out.
Go to Plugshare.
Go to Filters.
Go to Location Filters, uncheck those that require payment. This will give you all the free stations, including those operated by Caltrans.
From the reviews I’ve read, Caltrans has been getting high marks from users for the reliability and convenience of their stations.
How long the stations will remain free is unknown. Caltrans was limited by regulations established by Congress and the Federal Highway Administration more than 50 years ago during the build out of the interstate highway system. These regulations, urged at the behest of the restaurant industry, could be changed by Congress when—or if—it revisits EV incentives as part of the infrastructure bills now moving, glacially, in Washington.