Completion of the US Green Vehicle Council and Cleantech Institute’s network of CHAdeMO DC fast charging stations will make north-south travel in the Southern San Joaquin Valley easier for mass-market electric vehicles (EVs) in California.
Drivers of EVs such as the Nissan Leaf and the BMW i3 in the Bakersfield, Visalia, and Fresno areas have been waiting for the stations since the contract was awarded by the California Energy Commission (CEC) nearly two years ago.
Through drivers between Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento will also appreciate the fast charging stations located along I-5 on the west side of the valley, and along Hwy 99 on the east side.
The long-awaited completion of the US Green Vehicle Council’s stations along the I-5 and Hwy 99 routes is the first step toward alleviating the state’s absence of fast charge stations on the heavily travelled north-south corridor.
Despite teething problems on some of the early stations installed by US Green Vehicle Council and the Cleantech Institute, the stations now appear to be working, according to comments on Plugshare.com.
Unlike other DC Fast Charging (DCFC) stations being installed elsewhere, US Green Vehicle Council’s stations controversially use relatively low power chargers.
Typical DCFC stations today are rated at 50 kW and can deliver 40 kW to the vehicle. Forthcoming stations will be rated at 100 kW and more. In contrast, US Green Vehicle Council’s stations are rated at 25 kW and probably deliver 20 kW to the EV.
Drivers of mass-market EVs expect a DCFC station to charge their car to 80% of its capacity within 30 minutes. How well these new low-power stations perform in this regard remains unknown. Preliminary reports on Plugshare.com are positive, but there is no data on the stations rate of charge.
However, drivers on these routes previously had to use hours-long layovers charging at 5 and 6 kW before they could get on their way. Anything would be better than spending two hours or more charging at the Flying J truck stop in Lebec, California at 5 kW. Moreover, drivers stopping at the Flying J have to bring their own portable EVSE (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment) and adapter for connection to Shorepower’s 208-volt NEMA 14-30 terminal. Most drivers who only had access to the portable EVSE that came with their car would be limited to a paltry 1.4 kW on Shorepower’s 120-V outlet. Unprepared drivers could find themselves stuck for an entire afternoon at the Flying J before they had enough charge to reach Bakersfield northbound or Valencia south bound.
Those outside California may wonder why one of the richest regions in North America, and presumably one of the most tech-savvy, has a dearth of fast charge stations on two such important corridors. California’s themselves wonder why the San Joaquin Valley has been so underserved. One denizen of Plugshare.com often closed his sign-ins with a plea for a fast charge station in Bakersfield. (There is only one currently and that’s at the Nissan dealer.)
The official explanation is that a decision was made to concentrate fast charging stations in the major metropolitan areas: San Francisco Bay, Los Angeles, and San Diego. However, this decision has severely limited the use of today’s mass-market EVs, making it prohibitively difficult to use EVs in intercity travel.
In contrast to California, Oregon and Washington State built a network of fast charge stations along major—and even some minor—corridors.
Comments on Plugshare.com indicate that the US Green Vehicle Council’s app for using the stations has not been working reliably. Most drivers have been purchasing charge cards at the locations.
US Green Vehicle Council contracted with the CEC to install ten stations for $500,000. The installation of the station in Gorman, just south of Lebec on I-5 completes the contracted network in the south valley that most concerns drivers of today’s mass-market EVs.
Teslas have their own proprietary charging network.