California Finds a Strange Way to Jump-Start Electric Vehicle Charging.

Widespread adoption of electric vehicles has suffered from a chicken-and-egg problem with infrastructure.  Without a ready supply of places to recharge, potential buyers are left with worries about being stranded.  On the other hand, without an existing supply of customers, interest in building charging stations was minimal.

Enter a firm that you have likely never heard of, Princeton based NRG Inc., who is the successor to another company that you likely were glad to have forgotten, Dynergy.  Along with several other firms, most famously Enron, they were accused of artificially manipulating the California energy market over a decade ago.  Most of the other firms had settled suits with the state long ago.

Now the state has agreed with NRG to settle their lawsuit in exchange for NRG spending over $100 million over the next four years to build a for-fee charging network for California including job training in installation and maintenance.  One of NRG’s current diverse set of energy ventures is a small network of charging stations in the Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth areas called eVgo.

Chicken, meet egg.

The network will consist of:

  1. Two hundred Fast Charge stations where a typical electric car can get 50 miles of additional range in 15 minutes
  2. Ten thousand charger equipped parking spaces at large public work sites such as universities, hospitals, and civic centers.

During the announcement, Governor Brown signed an Executive Order setting a goal for California to have 1.5 million electric vehicles by 2025 and to have nearly all passenger cars be electric by 2050. That will require a lot more charging infrastructure than provided by this agreement, but it is thought that either NRG or others will step forward with additional charging stations once demand literally gets rolling.

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