Availability of Public Charging Stations for Electric Vehicles

One of my first concerns when I became interested in electric vehicles was the availability of public charging stations and how fast that infrastructure would grow.  Especially in light of the fact that current and near-future electric vehicles are only getting approximately 100 miles per charge.  The actual miles per charge can vary a lot depending on driving conditions and driver habits.  I am thinking only BEVs here as PHEVs have fossil-fuel propulsion as well.

Below are the results of my research using the internet and automotive magazines as my sources of information.  This article will only focus on the charging stations open to the general public.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are (current as of 8/31/11):

  • available electric public charging stations1318 public electric charging stations currently open
  • 39 states plus Washington DC have at least one public charging station
  • Alaska, Delaware, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming are the states not having any public charging stations
  • Locations are at a variety of places: Nissan dealerships, parking garages, McDonalds, public municipal buildings, public stores
  • Unclear which ones cost and which ones are free
  • Majority of the charging stations offer level 2 charging, some offer level 1 and level 3 DC, and a few offer a combination of levels.

As a side note, the DOE listed 185 private electric charging stations that are currently open (does not include private homes, these were primarily businesses, colleges, and municipalities).

walgreens electric public charging stationsThe number of public charging stations is growing everyday.  On July 21st, Walgreens announced their plans to offer electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at approximately 800 locations across the country by the end of 2011.  This would make it the nation’s largest retail offering charging stations.  Their charging stations will feature either a high-speed direct current (DC) charger or a Level 2 charger.  Installations are already under way at more than 60 stores across Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth and Chicago.  Future sites include Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. and select locations in Florida, New Jersey, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington.

Whole Foods Market has opened charging stations in Austin, Dallas, Denver, and Connecticut.  Best Buy installed electric vehicle (EV) stations at 12 stores, including in Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Phoenix and Tucson.

Some retailers are charging for use of the station, while others are still free.  The charging stations at the Mall of America cost $3 per hour.  I expect more and more charging stations will start charging a fee as time goes on, because somebody has to pay for that electricity.

Based on my research, it appears that the number of public charging stations is increasing; however, most of these are near major population areas.  Therefore, I suggest careful planning of your route before going beyond half of estimated miles per charge for your electric vehicle.  In my opinion, until miles per charge increases and/or the infrastructure grows sustainability more, I see electric vehicles being used as commuter vehicles.

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