With CEC’s help, there are now over 100 Level 2 (240 volt) public or semi-public charging stations available in our region. Most of them have been constructed in just the last few months. Read on for information on charging station locations, what they do, how to use them, and how often they are being used. Also, get the full scoop on local festivities for National Plug In Day on Sunday, September 23.
Electric vehicle owners can now access 38 public charging stations in Ventura County (in Thousand Oaks, Camarillo, Oxnard, Ventura, Ojai, and Simi Valley), 34 in Santa Barbara County (in Carpinteria, Summerland, Santa Barbara, Goleta, Lompoc, Solvang, and Santa Maria), and 15 in San Luis Obispo County (San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, and Atascadero), as well as another couple dozen spread throughout our region that are “semi-public” at car dealerships, hotels, and businesses. CEC played a critical role in identifying sites and matching interested hosts with the installation companies.
Most of the charging stations were installed by ChargePoint, Ecotality, or Clipper Creek through Department of Energy and/or California Energy Commission grant programs. The Santa Barbara Air Pollution Control District also contributed to some stations.
If your business is interested in offering public charging, contact CEC at [email protected], as incentive funding is still available.
New stations are coming online every week. CEC and others upload all new charging stations to Recargo.com, a crowd sourced website and mobile phone app. Recargo also allows users to upload sites, details, photos, and comments (such as restaurants or attractions nearby).
Public charging stations allow pure EV drivers to travel further afield, and plug-in hybrid drivers to visit a place and return solely on electricity, rather than needing the gas assist. While many EV and plug-in hybrid drivers have been easily driving their cars around town during the day and charging at home at night, public charging opens up new territory for them. For example:
- A LEAF driver (70-100 miles range) could commute the 53 miles from Lompoc to Santa Barbara, charge up while at work downtown, and then return home without worrying about running out of charge.
- A Volt driver (35 miles electric, then the gasoline range extender kicks in) could drive 33 miles from Ventura to Santa Barbara, charge up during a meeting or shopping trip, and then return to Ventura without using a drop of gas.
Previously, these trips would have been made on gasoline, so more public charging means more zero emission, low carbon electric miles substituted.
Most vehicles on the market charge at 3.3 kW – meaning that with the Level 2, 240-volt charging stations, they can add 10-15 miles of range for each hour that they charge. The Ford Focus EV, CODA, and many cars expected on the market in the near future charge at 6.6 kW — adding up to 30 miles of range per hour. As charging is slower than filling up the gas tank, most EV drivers view public charging as a way to top off so they can complete a trip. Most charging is done conveniently at home overnight, often from normal 110 volt outlets, when electricity is least expensive, and the grid has plenty of excess capacity.
DC Fast Charging Stations (DCFC) are also starting to appear, which allow LEAFs and other vehicles with fast charge capability to charge 80% of the battery in 20-30 minutes. While using a DCFC in Los Angeles, it was amazing to see a LEAF go from 45% state of charge to 80% in 10 minutes (pictured above). These fast charging stations will make it much more practical to take trips in the 100-120 mile range, such as to Los Angeles, but it will likely be many years until it is convenient to take an EV on long distance road trips. CEC is working with partners to bring DC Fast Chargers to the Central Coast.
Most of the public stations are located in parking structures and other properties owned by local governments, some of which are free, but most charge between $0.45 and $1.25/hour to use the stations. CEC believes this is a reasonable cost — sufficient to pay for the electricity, and sometimes the billing fees, management costs, maintenance, etc. EVs are very cheap to operate, for one dollar (using $0.15/kWh, the average residential rate and equivalent to $0.50/hour for public charging), an EV can travel around 20 miles. For one dollar, an average 25 mpg gasoline car can only travel 6 miles.
For an EV driver accustomed to charging exclusively at home, the first encounter with public charging can be a bit confusing, but becomes easy after a few tries. Read on for the details of each type of the most common charging stations:
Clipper Creek stations
These stations are mostly free and are the easiest; just lift the connector off the pedestal, connect to your car, and you’re done. The good news is that all electric cars on the market today use the same standardized connector, called J1772.
The ChargePoint stations are “smart,” meaning they are networked and accept credit cards or proprietary cards. Since they are networked, drivers can see in real time whether they are in use by going online or checking a mobile phone application. The chargers can also be reserved, and have sophisticated billing and reporting systems.
The ChargePoint stations can be activated with the ChargePoint smartphone application or by a credit card with a “contactless” RFID chip. However, these types of cards are not too common. Regular users should order a ChargePoint card for $4.95 online, though users can also call the toll free number listed on the charging stations, and give the operator a credit card number.
The Ecotality “Blink” stations are also “smart,” have a smartphone application, and the best way to access them is by ordering a free card through their website. They can also be activated by calling the toll free number on the screen and providing credit card info over the phone, or by going to https://blinkcode.com to enter credit card info online. Using these methods gives the user a code that they can then enter into the Blink Charger for a one-time use.
Yes, the City of Santa Barbara’s six charging stations have been used 345 times since being installed a few months ago, and in the last twelve days were used 66 times. The City notes that usage continues to increase each month, and they’ve recently brought two more stations online near the harbor. The City of Ventura’s stations were used 245 times in the first two months, and usage continues to increase each month.
As of August 3, there are now almost 40,000 highway capable electric vehicles on our roads, with almost a third of those in California (an EV purchase rate three times higher than the nation as a whole). California also has over 1,200 new Level 2 public charging stations. Check out Recargo.com to find out where they are and start using those charging stations!
If you have an electric vehicle or want to test drive one and meet some owners, come on down to our National Plug in Day Celebration, on Sunday, September 23. As part of celebrations in over 60 cities, we have some exciting activities planned, so mark it on your calendar and check out www.PlugInDay.org and www.PlugInSB.org for details. If you want to reserve space for the tailgate party or the EV parade, please email [email protected].