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The State of California is about to award millions of dollars to put in EV charging stations. The people handling that money at the local level may or may not know anything about how to locate the stations. They may not be installed so that they work for us, the actual EV drivers. Anyone who has tried to use public chargers knows that many of them are just not in the right locations.
How can we make sure the money puts charging stations where we will actually use them?
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Millions of Dollars Coming Soon to Create Charging Stations
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Putting charging stations in bad locations means they will not be used much, if at all.
Then again there are good locations out there that are being used to the point where people cannot get a charge or have to wait. That is happening more and more in places like Santa Monica, Malibu and Ojai. That is very exciting on one level but a concern on another. The concern is who gets to charge and who is hogging the chargers.
Where Do People Actually Want EV Charging Stations?
The EV Project Reports indicate that the average level 2 charging station is used about 4% of the time. That means less than an hour a day. That station only provides electricity about half that time. The report is available from:
Sustainable Transport Club members recently took a more down to earth approach which unfortunately seems to be a novel one. We actually asked EV drivers in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties where they need chargers as part of the National Plug in Day efforts. That resulted in getting good information about what sites actual EV drivers’ need. The results of that are in the related story (see Creating Successful Charging Sites). We are still interested in getting feedback so please check that out and let us know if you can use chargers in Santa Barbara or Ventura County.
Here is some data from the EV Project report. This is the latest report for the period from April 2013 through June 2013. It seems reasonably typical of previous reports.
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How do we make sure they will help people to buy and use EVs?
There are some cities that have several charging stations so they look good on a map for people who do not drive EVs. EV drivers try these sorts of locations only to find that they take too much time and hassle to be of practical use. The people involved with that planning clearly do not understand what needs to be done. One such planner has even told me that they are not concerned about whether a location is a good one as long as it has a charger that looks good on paper or a map.
There is only one thing that will make sure this happens effectively and that is if -
The maps that show where chargers are needed are also on that site. Since I lived in that area for eight years I can tell they look like they are very much on target. The maps give a good first cut at how to build out the infrastructure.
Other reports take different approaches that work better for planning roads than for predicting charging needs. The Luskin Center at UCLA and the renewable energy efforts at UC Davis have some interesting reports in-case you want to know what these sorts of things look like. The Luskin Center produced maps for the area I live in now. They are not as useful as the ones from Schatz Labs from my point of view.
Publicly Accessible Level 2 Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE)
Percent of time with a vehicle connected to EVSE = 4%
Percent of time with a vehicle drawing power from EVSE = 2%
Average number of charging events started per EVSE per day = 0.22
DC Fast Chargers
Percent of time with a vehicle connected to EVSE = 5%
Percent of time with a vehicle drawing power from EVSE = 5%
Average number of charging events started per EVSE per day = 3.78
These DC fast chargers are getting decent usage. However, they are currently giving FREE CHARGING. This changed in July and it would be good to see what happens when they stop giving free fuel.
These kinds of low usage factors mean that these chargers have a very limited potential to become a viable business. If we want to see the long term success of the charging stations then we would benefit from having the stations in locations where they can succeed on the business level.
The people taking government money may not be concerned about giving you what you need or about the long term success of the charging system. You can make a difference on that level by getting involved. Your local users groups can be a great way to have that happen. All it takes in one or two local leaders to take this on. They can then find the people getting the money to do this and work with them to get this done right.
In California, this work will be done, at least in part, by the seven regional PEV preparedness councils. You can find out more about these at:
Part of the problem comes from the planning being done by academia and research. Most of this is overthinking the problem and trying to get fancy models that predict the charging needs. The EV project does that if you want to see how strange that approach can be.
One approach that looks promising is coming from Shatz Energy Lab. It is actually tracking driver behavior to identify charging needs.
EV drivers get involved and help these people to do a good job.
Links to help others find this information
Copyright 2013 Russell Sydney, All rights reserved.