Sometimes it’s hard enough to find a gas station that has diesel. Imagine driving an electric vehicle (EV) in a new area and not knowing where to find the nearest charging station. Range anxiety is an issue for many EV owners, but today they are getting a bit of relief.
Electric vehicle charging solutions company Coulomb Technologies is announcing its partnership with TomTom to make its ChargePoint Network available to drivers on the road.
ChargePoint lets drivers find the nearest charging station, reserve it, get there, pay and also get detailed charging station information including power and connector type. With TomTom, they will be able to access this information while driving. The goal is to help increase EV adoption, explains Pat Romano, president and CEO of Coulomb, in a phone interview with VentureBeat.
“The problems blocking mass EV adoption are really straightforward,” Romano explains. “Until you can assume the infrastructure is prevalent everywhere, having convenient ways to locate charging stations is important.”
One way to understand how difficult it is to find a charging station is to note that new ones are newsworthy. Seattle, WA made news this week with plans to roll out nine stations along I-5 by the end of they year, and charging stations still make headlines in Portugal, an electrically hip country that produces 43 percent of its electricity from renewable sources such as wind and hydropower. When is the installation of a charging station going to become too common to make headlines?
“It’s probably a few years away,” says Romano. “It’s estimated that by 2015 one million EVs will be on U.S. roads. Right now cities want to demonstrate their forward thinking investments in clean energy, so charging stations are newsworthy.”
(Romano’s projection for one million EVs by 2015 got a boost today. General Motors announced it will now sell its Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid in North and South Carolina.)
While rapid charging stations are an important factor in EV adoption, their location isn’t as critical as charging stations at home, work and other businesses.
“The main issues with rapid charging isn’t the technology,” says Romano. “Battery capacity is getting larger by the minute.”
The problem is the mentality that EVs should be charged at a gas station. Romano says it isn’t where you pump, it’s where you park.
“People are parked for hours during work and while they are sleeping at night,” he says. “Charging is really going to become a parking model. One of our fastest-growing segments is workplaces.”
Being able to find charging stations on your TomTom is certainly helpful. Who wouldn’t want that peace of mind? But it really is just a stepping stone to broader adoption.
If you happen to be in Raleigh, NC, you can see a demonstration of the ChargePoint Network today at the Plug-in 2011 show.
Coulomb’s ChargePoint Network is currently charging more than 26,000 vehicles per month, with more than 115 Megawatt hours (MWh) of energy each month. The company says it doubles the electric transportation fuel dispensed each quarter.