The future of electric vehicles in the United States will benefit thanks to a plan recently revealed by Electrify America to invest $300 million into a national network of 450 non-proprietary electric car charging stations. Work on the network, which will cover 11 major metropolitan areas and heavily traveled highways in 39 states, is slated to begin during the second quarter of 2017, with completion expected in 2019.
The “Most Advanced Charging Technology Ever Deployed”
Electrify America, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Volkswagen Group of America, promised that the network will incorporate the most advanced charging technology ever deployed. Electrify America’s plans call for 240 chargers of either 150kW or 320kW, with each station offering between four and 10 chargers. Locations will be spaced between 66 and 120 miles apart on highways. Charging time is estimated at 15 to 20 minutes for an EV, based on 320-kW power output. In addition, the company will build 50- to150-kW chargers in urban parking garages and lots in large markets such as Chicago, New York, Boston, Denver, Miami, Philadelphia, Portland, Raleigh, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. Because the chargers are not exclusive to VW vehicles, anyone who has an electric or hybrid vehicle can use these stations to give their vehicle batteries a boost.
The development of the charging station network is part of Volkswagen’s $15 billion settlement in the wake of “Dieselgate.” As part of the agreement, VW agreed to promote the use of next-generation propulsion technology, namely clean energy produced by electric vehicles.
Bolster EV Infrastructure and Awareness
Construction of the EV charging stations is the first stage of a $2 billion deployment to bolster EV infrastructure and awareness. Of that figure, $1.2 billion has been set aside for educational programs and infrastructure outside of California. The Golden State is in a class by itself as it will receive $800 million.
This investment in zero-emissions infrastructure and awareness is the largest of its kind and can be expected to have implications on driving in the United States. When combined with other networks, it could signal the beginning of non-proprietary EV charging stations becoming commonplace in urban and suburban areas.
Electrify America’s Chargers Will Be Three to Six Times Faster
The speed of these chargers is significant as most non-proprietary charges are in the 25-50 kW range. Electrify America’s chargers will be three to six times faster. The 15- to 20-minute estimated charging time is also in line with a typical rest stop time, thereby making the stations convenient for those on a long road trip. The challenge, however, will come in more rural areas, where charging stations can be expected to be few and far between for the moment.
Making the Public More Aware of Electric Vehicles
Some of the investment will also be spent on making the public more aware of electric vehicles. A recent survey indicated that 60% of 2,500 drivers polled were unaware of the availability of electric cars and the options for everyday driving. Educational programs will encompass multi-channel advertising, websites, social media and sponsored rides and drives at dealerships and special events.
In addition, VW will launch its Green City Initiative where it will target an as-yet, unnamed California city to pilot future concepts of sustainable mobility that may include a ZEV-based shuttle service, EV-based car-sharing program or ZEV transit application.