Inyokern DCFC Station Finally Live–Opens Eastern Kern County to EVs

By Paul Gipe

The long-awaited DCFC station at the Inyokern airport is finally live after years of waiting.

EV Connect brought the station on line in mid October as part of a California Energy Commission program to serve east-west routes in the state that was launched more than five years ago. Yes, five long years ago activists pushed the CEC to address fast charging needs on unserved portions of the state. Some of us argued that the CEC had “forgotten” about the “other California”.

Those outside Kern County can be forgiven for not having heard of Inyokern or knowing where it’s near. That’s understandable. It’s not near anything. It’s in the middle of nowhere. And that’s not much of an exaggeration.

Inyokern was a watering stop on the long-abandoned rail line serving the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada. It’s now known for the regional airport serving the civilian population around the giant Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake centered on the town of Ridgecrest.

To give you a better idea of where it is, Inyokern is midway between the railhead of Mojave (the final stop on the 20-Mule Team route from Death Valley) and Coso Junction (a stopping off place on the way to Coso hot springs). Yep, remote.

There’s been no commercial air service to Inyokern since the last financial collapse and the modern terminal is closed. Thus, there are no driver services at the airport. Not even a port-a-potty. But it’s quiet with the exception of plane or helicopter using the airport–or the occasional fly by of a military jet from the air base. (The day we were there, a search and rescue copter landed after locating a downed Navy fighter. I suspect that’s much more excitement than the airport normally sees. The pilot had ejected and was recovered.)

The single 120-amp kiosk can serve either CHAdeMO or CCS cars, but not at the same time. Unfortunately, there’s no redundancy. If DCFC kiosk is down, you’re out of luck. It’s 50 miles south to Mojave and 30 miles north to Coso Junction. There’s not even a public Level 2 EVSE eastbound until you reach Death Valley 130 miles away and half that distance westbound to Kernville.

There is one Level 2 at the airport, but it didn’t work for the first driver who tried to use it.

EV Connect is one of the minor networks in California. They have also brought on line their single-kiosk station Mojave Air & Space Port. With two stations on the “east side” let’s hope EV Connect can afford to service the stations and keep them running.

Electrify America also has a station at the Comfort Inn & Suites in Mojave.

The Inyokern station makes travel up the east side and to Death Valley National Park easier for us in Bakersfield. On a recent trip to Horseshoe Meadows we used the station twice and it worked both times. However, our second charge in the afternoon on the way home required a work around that might stump a novice.

The afternoon sun–and this is in the desert after all–overheats the display, leaving the screen blank. The trick is to use two physical buttons on the surface of the kiosk: “start” is for CHAdeMO, “stop” is for CCS. (Note, this is not the Emergency Stop button.) Plug in, if the screen is blank, push one of the buttons, wave your RFID card or use their app, and the charge will start. (There is also a credit card reader, but I didn’t try it.)

All in all, the Inyokern station is welcome. It shouldn’t have taken this long, but we’re glad it’s there nonetheless.