With CEC’s help, there are now over 200 public or semi-public charging stations available in our region. Most of them have been constructed in just the last year or two. Read on for information on charging station locations, what they do, how to use them, and how often they are being used.
Where they are
Electric vehicle owners can now access 82 public charging stations in Ventura County (in Thousand Oaks, Moorpark, Camarillo, Oxnard, Ventura, Ojai, and Simi Valley), 81 in Santa Barbara County (in Carpinteria, Summerland, Santa Barbara, Goleta, Lompoc, Buellton, Solvang, and Santa Maria), and 38 in San Luis Obispo County (Grover Beach, Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Atascadero and Paso Robles), as well as another couple dozen spread throughout our region that are “semi-public” at car dealerships, hotels, and businesses. Most of these stations are Level 2 stations, which allow EV drivers to add 10-30 miles each hour. There are now also five DC Fast Chargers, which enable some EVs to fill up to 80% in 20 minutes in Thousand Oaks, Oxnard, Camarillo, Simi Valley and Goleta. Tesla has also constructed 8 Superchargers each in Buellton and Atascadero, which allow Teslas to add up to 170 miles in 30 minutes for free, and are part of a nationwide network that enables travel along the West and East Coast and across the country. CEC played a critical role in identifying many of these 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 Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control Districts also contributed to some stations. CEC is a partner with the three Air Districts and the Central Coast Clean Cities Coalition for Plug in Central Coast, a group working to accelerate EV adoption regionally, helping cities and businesses to add charging stations and adopt EV friendly policies.
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 all the time. CEC and others upload all new charging stations to Recargo.com, a crowdsourced website and mobile phone app. Recargo also allows users to upload sites, details, photos, and comments (such as restaurants or attractions nearby).
What they do
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 as much as 90% of charging takes place at home, and many EV 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. They could also drive from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles, stopping at the Thousand Oaks DC Fast Charger for 10 minutes to top off to make sure they arrive in LA with plenty 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.
Many 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. Many pure EVs are now offered with 6.6 kW charging, meaning they can add 20-30 miles of range in an 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. DC Fast Chargers are now installed in Thousand Oaks, Camarillo, Simi Valley, and Goleta, and over 100 other locations in California. These fast charging stations will make it much more practical to take trips in the 100-120 mile range, such as to Los Angeles or Orange County, but it will likely be many years until it is convenient to take an EV on long distance road trips (unless it’s a Tesla). CEC is working with partners to bring DC Fast Chargers to the Central Coast.
How to use them
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 $1.00/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. Occasionally they may have access control where you need to get a code to enter in a keypad from the station owner or by calling a phone number. 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 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 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.
Are EV drivers using the stations?
Yes, local charging stations have now been used tens of thousands of times over the last two years, and usage over the last year has quadrupled on a kWh/month basis. This is due to more EVs on the street, but also newer ones that charge twice as fast, as well as tourists or business travelers that can now visit our region and charge overnight.
Nationally, EV sales in 2013 were 96,000, almost double 2012’s 53,000, which was almost triple 2011’s 17,000. Almost a third of these EVs are in California (an EV purchase rate three times higher than the nation as a whole). Locally, we have about 2000 EVs on the Central Coast, and we are adding about 150 EVs/month regionally. California has 5593 Level 2 public charging stations, adding hundreds each month. Visit Recargo.com to find out where they are and start using those charging stations.