California already leads the nation in electric-car adoption, and that momentum will likely increase if a new infrastructure plan is approved.

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E)--one of the state's biggest electric utilities--recently submitted a proposal to the Public Utilities Commission asking for permission to build 25,000 new charging stations for plug-in vehicles in its Northern California territory.

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If approved, the new charging-station sites would cover PG&E's area of operations in northern and central California.

The charging stations will be installed at both commercial and residential sites, including "multi-family dwellings, retail outlets, and workplaces," PG&E says.

The number represents about one-quarter of the 100,000 Level 2 charging sites PG&E says will be required to service the population of plug-in vehicles on California roads needed to meet the state's mandated reduction in carbon emissions by 2020.

2014 Fiat 500e

2014 Fiat 500e

While it would own the stations, the utility says it expects to work with charging-network operators who will buy electricity from the utility, resell it for a profit to electric-car drivers, and manage the billing and administration for the sites.

Approximately 10 percent of sites will be selected to support disadvantaged communities, and the company plans to provide educational materials on electric cars to site hosts and its customers.

All of the new charging sites would have 240-Volt Level 2 capability. The proposal also calls for 100 sites with DC fast-charging to enable easier intercity travel.

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The charging stations would be provided at no cost to the site host, and would be paid for by all of PG&E's electricity customers through a slight rate increase.

PG&E expects cost increases to be "minimal" in 2016 and 2017, with the average individual customer paying about 70 cents more per month from 2018 through 2022.

After approval by the California Public Utilities Commission, PG&E expects construction of the 25,000 charging stations to take about five years.

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, Newport Beach, California, July 2012

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, Newport Beach, California, July 2012

Charging-network operator ChargePoint issued a statement sharply critical of PG&E's proposal, calling it far too expensive for the number of charging ports that would be provided.

ChargePoint also attacked the notion that a single utility could determine the hardware, charging rate, features, and pricing for such a large number of stations--essentially the "800-Pound Gorilla" effect.

It pointed instead to a differently structured program proposed by Southern California Edison that eased the cost of private installations, educated its ratepayers about the benefits of electric cars, and offered a variety of hardware and charging rates.

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PG&E said it expects the state to need far more charging locations than its proposed 25,000 if it is to meet anticipated demand.

California currently has more than 100,000 plug-in electric cars on its roads; PG&E estimates that 60,000 of them are registered in its service area.

State officials have set a goal of 1 million plug-in cars on California roads by 2025; to accommodate that, PG&E says about 100,000 public  Level 2 stations must be operating by 2020.


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