Price Of Electric-Car DC Fast Charging Varies: Sacramento A Test Case


While fast charging for electric cars is still nonexistent--or just starting to roll out--across much of the country, California leads the way.

And the state capital of Sacramento now has such stations installed both by private vendors and the local public utility, Sacramento Metropolitan Utility District (SMUD).

That makes the city one of the first in the U.S. to be served by multiple suppliers for DC quick charging stations.

DON'T MISS: BMW, VW, ChargePoint To Build 100 CCS Fast-Charging Sites For Electric Cars (Jan 2015)

As of early June 2015, there are now 14 DC fast charger locations within 25 miles of downtown Sacramento.

Sacramento Municipal Utility District electric car DC fast-charging site, Jun 2015 [George Parrott]

Sacramento Municipal Utility District electric car DC fast-charging site, Jun 2015 [George Parrott]

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In effect, the region's electric-car drivers will be participating in a real-life market test to determine if the price of fast-charging makes a significant difference.

Cars capable of using DC fast charging include the original 2011 Nissan Leaf, which offered an optional CHAdeMO port--as did the 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV. The later Kia Soul EV also uses this standard as well.

For 2015, there is now a second and incompatible DC fast-charging option, known as Combined Charging System, or CCS.

Chevrolet Spark EV at CCS fast charging station in San Diego.

Chevrolet Spark EV at CCS fast charging station in San Diego.

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Cars equipped with CCS charging on sale today include the BMW i3, Chevrolet Spark EV, and Volkswagen e-Golf. Future entries from those makers, as well as Ford, General Motors, and Daimler will also likely include this capability.

ALSO SEE: Electric-Car Fast Charging: California CCS Sites Two Years Behind CHAdeMO

As for Tesla, its higher-power Supercharger system is incompatible with both CHAdeMO and CCS, but a CHAdeMO converter cable is available to Model S owners.

Sacramento sprawl

The first DC fast charger in the Sacramento region was opened in late 2010 by Pacific Gas and Electric. But it was quickly disabled for public use, and is only now being brought back on line for the vital San Francisco-to-Sacramento commute corridor.

Sacramento Municipal Utility District electric car DC fast-charging site, Jun 2015 [George Parrott]

Sacramento Municipal Utility District electric car DC fast-charging site, Jun 2015 [George Parrott]

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Still, around the sprawling Sacramento region, only in recent months has a viable network of DC fast chargers become available.

Nissan Dealers have brought DC fast chargers online along both Interstate 80 and the Highway 50 Corridor from Davis, 20 miles west of Sacramento. Other feeder routes and regional trunk roads also offer fast charging en route to suburbs in the foothills.

SMUD opened its first dual-format DC fast charger near its main offices, off Highway 50 close to the central city itself, about 3 months ago.

MORE: Electric-Car Fast-Charging Networks: Competition Heats Up

Last week it opened the second of several more planned for the region, this one along Interstate 80 about 15 miles northeast of the city center.

"SMUD will be installing five more DC fast chargers in the metropolitan area," according to Ralph Troute, Electric Vehicle Project Manager for SMUD.

Sacramento Municipal Utility District electric car DC fast-charging site, Jun 2015 [George Parrott]

Sacramento Municipal Utility District electric car DC fast-charging site, Jun 2015 [George Parrott]

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"One will be at the airport, one at the train station, and one at each of three major Sacramento area food stores--including two in the southern part of the county."

The dual-format DC charging sites installed by SMUD have two cables, one for CHAdeMO and one for CCS.

RELATED: Can Electric-Car Fast Charging Be Profitable? Answer: Unclear

That's a format that is likely to become the preferred standard for many new DC fast-charging installations henceforth.

Usage data shows popularity

SMUD's more central DC charger near its headquarters was used 224 times in the month of May, the utility's data shows, and the I-80 corridor location was used 55 times in its first month of activity. 

2015 Nissan Leaf

2015 Nissan Leaf

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The current design of these DC fast charging locations also includes 240-Volt Level 2 charging as well, and that system is seeing frequent use as well.

Altogether, the region has DC charging sites provided by SMUD, the energy company NRG's EVgo network, the Chargepoint network, and Nissan dealerships.


 
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