California will issue nearly $9 million in grants for the installation of electric-car DC fast-charging stations along the state's highways.

This will create a charging network to link up the country's most populous state with the West Coast Electric Highway already developed by Oregon and Washington.

That will, in turn, make it easier for electric-car drivers to take long trips up and down the West Coast.

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The California Energy Commission solicited applications for this project last July, and is now awarding grants to four companies.

ChargePoint, EV Connect, NRG, and Recargo will together install 61 DC fast-charging stations at 41 sites along major north-south highway corridors.

Those include I-5, as well as State Route 99 and U.S. Highway 101.

NRG eVgo electric-car charging station

NRG eVgo electric-car charging station

In addition, 40 more sites will have a single 240-volt Level 2 AC charging station, and one site will get two Level 2 stations.

Level 2 stations typically take several hours to charge an electric car's battery fully, while DC fast-charging stations can provide an 80-percent recharge in as little as 30 minutes.

California already has thousands of Level 2 stations, but most are clustered around metropolitan areas like Los Angeles rather than along high-speed freeways.

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Stations are much harder to find on highways, and Level 2 stations' long recharge times make them less than ideal for long trips anyway.

The California Energy Commission grants will finally give the Golden State a way to connect to the West Coast Electric Highway in Oregon and Washington, of which the first segments opened four years ago.

This is a network of DC fast-charging stations installed every 25 to 50 miles along major highways in the two states.

BMW i3 electric car and ChargePoint DC fast-charging station at Washington, DC, Auto Show, Jan 2015

BMW i3 electric car and ChargePoint DC fast-charging station at Washington, DC, Auto Show, Jan 2015

While electric-car charging makes up the bulk of the California grants, the network includes natural gas, biodiesel, ethanol, and hydrogen fueling infrastructure as well.

In addition to the charging-infrastructure project, California Energy Commissioners also approved $12.6 million in funding for the National Gas Vehicle Incentive Project.

As the name states, this programs provides purchase incentives for natural-gas vehicles.

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This is primarily aimed at fleet operators, as lack of fueling infrastructure and a limited selection of models has dampened interest in natural-gas cars among individual consumers.

The new funding will address a current wait list, and provide incentives to future applicants.

Last year, the Energy Commission gave more than $11 million in incentives to buyers, who must operate their natural-gas vehicles in the state for at least three years.


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