DC Quick-Charging Stations: Why Does California Lag, Not Lead?

2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

Enlarge Photo

There are now more than 4,000 Nissan Leaf electric cars on the road in the United States, and the 2012 Mitsubishi “i” is poised to arrive at dealers late this year.

Each car offers a DC quick-charge port using the Japanese CHAdeMO standard, for which most 2011 Nissan Leaf owners paid extra.

Yet as of today, there is exactly one fully functional CHAdeMO quick charge point in the entire United States: in Portland, Oregon.

In Japan, by contrast, 689 DC quick-charge stations have been installed, and Europe now has 87. Everywhere else (that includes the United States) totals an additional 5, according to the CHAdeMO Association.

Portland CHAdeMO quick-charging station (publicly accessible)

Portland CHAdeMO quick-charging station (publicly accessible)

Enlarge Photo
Of those five "other" CHAdeMO charge stations, only two are indicated as being in the U.S. One is in Vacaville, California and has been locked down awaiting Underwriters Laboratory approval since March of this year. The other is actually open and functional in Portland, Oregon.

Now, the U.S. has doubled its quick-charge stations--from one to two--with a second station, located at the Mitsubishi offices in Southern California, which was up and running as of the second week of this month.

Portland has a solid claim to being the epicenter of electric cars in the United States, and besides streamlining the approval process for home charging stations, the greater Portland area has solid plans in place for the expansion of the CHAdeMO charging options by the end of this year. 

Rick Durst, the electric vehicle project manager for Portland General Electric, reports that Ecotality should have 23 direct charge stations spread around Portland, Salem and Eugene. 

There are further plans for as many as 10 more along the I-5 corridor between Portland and the California border to be installed by Labor Day with another 22 additional DC quick charge stations by December of 2012.

CHAdeMO Charger

CHAdeMO Charger

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As a challenge to the quick-charge installations in the Portland, Oregon area, the bigger Texas cities should be well-served by late Fall 2011 as well.  Dave Knox of NRG Energy in Dallas reports that 25 DC quick charge stations should be operational in Houston and another 35 in Dallas/Ft. Worth by December 2011.

So why is it that California, arguably home to the largest number of current and future Nissan Leaf and 2012 Mitsubishi “i” drivers, cannot seem to get from “planning” to installing and operating these crucial quick-charging stations?

One answer may be that it's not clear that CHAdeMO will, in fact, become the U.S. standard for DC quick charging. U.S. electric-car makers are developing an entirely different standard, raising fears of a VHS-Betamax standoff with multiple, incompatible quick-charge stations.

What do you think? Why is California lagging so badly?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

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Comments (13)
  1. Commentator CaptJackSparrow on a volt related blog calls it "brokeazz CA". And look at the level of our recent political "leadership", LOL. The Governator, aka Ahhhnold, was clearly preoccupied with other pursuits, leaving hom no time for such trivia, hahaha.

  2. The lack of UL (or other NRTL) approval for DC Fast Charger units for use in public access areas is the primary cause for the non-availability. Even ECOtality's EV Project has no released their announcement on UL approval as of yet, and this will be the largest US release of DC Fast Charge units to date. All of this technology has to go through appropriate approvals before they can be released.

  3. In addition to the usual government "red tape" gridlocks, and while it's true that many California consumers are going green and buying EVs, the majority remain ambivalent. This equates to about 1/8 of the US population! In addition, most businesses in California are not "green-centric" as they are in Portland & Oregon. I believe what happens in Los Angeles will be an excellent gauge for the entire country. We cannot simply talk the talk (blah blah) - we must drive the drive forward. Perhaps the California Legislature should consult with its Northern counterparts about creating more EVSE incentives and a cultural climate that's greener by nature.

  4. Whatever dude, we've got, ta ta two - yes two, we've got ta ta two, we're winners, we're winners!

  5. Kudos Portland and Dallas, cities that lead. LA and NYC however should set up private entity taxi systems with the Better Place model, as the "quickest" charge is an exchange that takes less time than pumping gas. Buy the car, but don't buy all the power it needs when you get the car....simple, no?

  6. "Yet as of today, there is exactly one fully functional CHAdeMO quick charge point in the entire United States: in Portland, Oregon."

    And... uh... Four in Texas. But I guess we don't count?

  7. I keep reading about the U.S. not adopting CHAdeMO, but why? Does anyone have an article on the issues involved? Are there legitimate concerns with that standard?

  8. @Dallas May
    Yikes, can you give us a link that reports the operational status of those CHAdeMO stations already up and running in Texas? As I note in the posted article, Texas is running hard to get DC quick charge stations going and has the money and other details in place, but according to the link directly to CHAdeMO international, and to an interview I did with one of the principles there in Texas, they did not expect their DC quick charge stations up and running until later this year.

    Congrats big time to Texas if they do have stations actually open to the public; as the headline implies, it is simply pathetic that California is so slow in getting actually funded stations operational here.

  9. Why you ask? Its all part of the same reason California has a debt problem. Greedy special interest corporations pay their lobbyists to write legislation so that a few individuals and our greedy elected officials can make big bucks by devising a different method to do the same thing, but because it’s different patents get issued and only a few make the money. And what is a “charge station”? Nothing more than a fancy switch, the charger is actually built into the electric car, so it becomes an even bigger rip-off.

  10. Umm, Texas has four, oh. Nevermind :) But wait, doesn't DC fast charging bypass the onboard charger?

  11. @JR,
    One of the main reasons that the US is holding off on CHAdeMO is that our US car companies are lobbying strongly for a different port format with a single charger input which would surround the standard J1772 connection. See the following article I wrote here some time ago:

  12. Because of GM and Chrysler's incompetency and their belief in the miricle of hybrids, Ford and the U.S. has been dragging its heels on bringing electric cars and charging stations to America. They want to wait until there is a battery that can get at least 350 to 15,000 MPC. That is a little over stated, but you get the idea.

  13. For the Dallas area EV drivers, one of the Nissan Leaf forum posters has updated a map with the available charging stations there. NOTHING like this access is available yet in Sacramento, SF, or other California metropolitan areas:

    http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=211 ... 04,2.90863

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