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


2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

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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)

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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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