By on December 18, 2017

electrify-america-ev-charging-station, Electrify America

Volkswagen Group has been a quite the busy bee when it comes to bolstering EV charging infrastructure. In addition to breaking ground on Europe’s new fast-charging network before the end of this year (with help from Daimler, BMW, and Ford), the brand’s Electrify America subsidiary is preparing to fulfill a court order that will force it to live up to its name.

A signification portion of VW’s emissions scandal penance involves investment into eco-centric technologies and the beefing up of the United States’ electric vehicle infrastructure. So, on Monday the company announced plans to install 2,800 EV charging stations in 17 of the largest U.S. cities by June of 2019.

While the overarching plan has remained largely the same, blowback from California forced Electrify America to deploy its charging stations more altruistically. Volkswagen initially proposed spending its first $120 million on 400 highway and community charging stations, but the California Air Resources Board pressed it to “make every attempt” to reserve 35 percent of its first 30-month investment cycle for disadvantaged communities “disproportionately affected by air pollution.”

The 2,800 forthcoming charging stations will now be located in roughly 500 locations, with around 75 percent of those at workplaces and the rest at multifamily dwellings — such as apartment buildings. The remaining locations will likely go to high-traffic areas seeing more frequent use.

“There hasn’t been a significant catalyst yet for ramping up the number of charging stations,” Scott Fisher, Greenlots’ vice president of market development, told Reuters. “This is an unprecedented opportunity to help create the electric vehicle infrastructure we need across the U.S.”

However, the argument could be made that Volkswagen’s earliest charging stations could do more good for advancing alternative powertrains if they’re situated in more affluent areas. While poor communities should definitely have access to the sites, it’s the financially secure that are coming out as early adopters of the new tech.

“One of the biggest barriers to the mass-market adoption of electric vehicles is access to chargers,” Mark McNabb, chief executive officer of Electrify America, said in a statement from November.

The VW subsidiary said it has selected SemaConnect, EV Connect, and Greenlots to install the stations. In total, $800 million will be spent in California for a total of $2 billion nationwide as part of Volkswagen’s post-emissions cheating agreement. The sum will be broken down into four 30-month periods over the next 10 years.

[Image: Volkswagen Group]

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47 Comments on “Volkswagen to ‘Electrify America’ With 2,800 EV Charging Stations...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Isn’t this part of the DieselGate Settlement? If it is the article ought to explicitly say so.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    VW is wasting so much money. This electrification push is overblown and ridiculous. Electric cars will be as utilized as they are mandated/subsidized. Otherwise, people will stick with the far more advanced technology of ICE. The battery/electric motor combo were surpassed over 100 years ago. Show me the actual magic battery, not the fantasy. It has been “just around the corner” for decades.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Nobody’s claiming to have a magic battery, except a few dreamers. This story is about VW’s compliance with a court order to help continue the market growth of EVs.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      There’s a lot of interesting battery technology in the process of making the jump from lab to mass production. A lot of that technology won’t make it. It takes time too. One technology I know of is expected to take 4 years from limited production in the lab to rolling off the line at a factory. The reason you don’t hear anything is that these companies are really secretive. The first rule about battery club is that you don’t talk about battery club.

      What’s happening is that the auto manufacturers do talk to these companies and sign NDAs, so they have a better picture of what’s happening than the general public.

      If you do want an idea where batteries are going, take a look at the Tesla Roadster prototype which manages to hold a 220 kWh battery. Specific energy on most modern batteries is about 240 Wh/kg and the roadster battery is said to be 117 Wh/kg – although that number can’t be confirmed.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        I don’t doubt you mcs, but I have been reading similar things for decades. Usually, it is economics rather than technology that keeps it out of the marketplace. That is why we have not all taken a trip to the moon.

        ICE is highly advanced technology, and it is flexible, reliable and affordable. There is no good enough reason for the vast majority of people to switch unless they are bribed or compelled. A magic battery would change that, but I’ll continue to wait for it.

    • 0 avatar
      volvo driver

      Show me the magic ICE sedan that runs 0-60 in 2.4 seconds.

    • 0 avatar
      sst

      VW isn’t wasting money, this is part of the settlement they faced in the US court system for cheating on the EPA test procedure.

      The judge ordered them to invest in electric vehicle technology and infrastructure as part of the retribution and compensation along with fixing and buying cars back.

      It isn’t a waste if they making due diligence on satisfying the settlement

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        It is a huge waste of money. VW is complying with the settlement, no doubt. The terms of the settlement require them to waste a bunch of money putting chargers into poor neighborhoods. This is absurd. They would be better off taking the money letting homeless people burn it in trash barrels for warmth. At least it would actually get used by poor people.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    There is no point in putting chargers in “disadvantaged communities” until used EVs have depreciated enough that the residents can afford them.

    Chargers need to be universally compatible. When I need fuel for my ICE vehicle, I don’t need to find a manufacturer specific station. Any brand will do as long as the fuel meets my vehicle’s requirements. The auto manufacturers and oil companies figured this out long ago. If they are wise, EV manufacturers will do the same. Eventually, chargers should be owned and operated by electric utilities the way gas stations are by the oil companies.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Used EVs have already depreciated quite a bit.

      https://www.cars.com/for-sale/searchresults.action/?mdId=35968&mkId=20077&page=1&perPage=20&rd=50&searchSource=SORT&sort=price-lowest&stkTypId=28881&zc=60606

      As for a universal charging standard – that is definitely needed. But IMO this is an area where the Feds should mandate a standard after consultation with the leading mfrs. It’s ridiculous and self-defeating to have more than 1 or 2 charging protocols.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        As for a universal charging standard – that is definitely needed.

        Ding ding. Then I can have an app that will tell me “charging station at _______, here’s directions” without worrying if it is a Tesla station etc.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          “Ding ding. Then I can have an app that will tell me …”

          We have that. You can filter on the type of charger. plugshare.com. It’s also built into my cars navigation system.

          As for the universal charging standard – that’s not a big deal. The one Electrify America station that I’ve used (yes, I actually used one) was a dual head CHAdeMO and CCS. It can charge Tesla, Nissan, or VW/Bolt etc. I have adapters for 120v, various 240v outlets, and I could get one for Tesla. It’s still electricity and not something like diesel vs. gasoline. It can be converted with an adapter.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      It was a good plan before the state of California got involved and demanded 35% of the charging stations go into neighborhoods where the locals don’t need them and outsiders won’t even drive through, much less hang around for an hour.

      But social justice, courting the minority vote, blah blah..

      • 0 avatar
        volvo driver

        Deal with it, peasant.

      • 0 avatar
        HotPotato

        You think “the minority vote” is pushing for charging stations? Not, like, better schools or honest cops?

        If anything, charging stations are like coffee shops: harbingers of impending gentrification, which is a dirty word in the few still-affordable neighborhoods in the coastal metros.

        Doesn’t have to be that way–a couple of exceptionally polluted pockets of California briefly ran pilot programs to help low-income households out of their fume-spewing 1990 Explorers and into cheap used EVs. Retiring gross polluters is the fastest and cheapest way to improve air quality, but for political reasons I don’t expect those programs would scale up.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      The cheapest is around $5600 for a 2011 used Leaf with about 1/2 the battery capacity left. Is that cheap enough?

    • 0 avatar
      Erikstrawn

      The manufacturers will resist putting charging stations in lower income neighborhoods as long as they can. The government currently has VW by their balls. What better time to insist? I think California has it right, even if it seems anachronistic.

    • 0 avatar
      deanst

      Many oil companies are selling off their stations, so the analogy is not particularly apt.

  • avatar
    Garrett

    Maybe they could use TDI engines as generators.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Charging stations are not what is keeping people from adopting EVs, and we are nearing the point where other than freeway locations they just won’t be necessary for most people. As ranges exceed 150-200 miles very few people will ever visit a public charger.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Electrifying!

  • avatar
    rudiger

    While access to EV charging stations is a major issue, on top of that is what it ‘costs’ to use a charging station. With the price of gas currently being very low, the cost to use just about any charge station is simply insane. The EV station price gouging is what’s really holding up EV sales.

    So, even if good ole VW decides to add a bunch of charging stations, it means virtually nothing if the cost to use those stations is way more than what it costs to fill up with fossil fuel.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      It’s really rare that I stop at a pay charging station. Maybe once every other month. Mostly charge at work, home, and breakfast place with free charging. I’m a high mileage driver too.

      • 0 avatar
        rudiger

        I read somewhere that the demographic that most likely has the type of discretionary funds to buy EVs aren’t homeowners, but live in condo/apartment style dwellings, most of which won’t have EV charging capability. It might have specifically targeted sales of high-end EVs like Tesla. Discounting the ability to charge at work, that means there are many potential EV owners that would require off-site EV stations and, presumably, the consumers VW is targeting with their proposed installation of EV stations.

        So, the scenario still applies: prohibitively high-cost EV charging stations simply aren’t going to do anything to advance and increase EV ownership.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      You’re thinking of DC fast chargers. But those are only used by people on road trips, really. People tooling around in town just opportunistically top up at regular-joe Level 2 chargers, which are generally quite inexpensive or even free.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    We’ve been working with VW to set up the first station to start testing. I work for the power company near the VW US HQ and having met the people in charge it is obvious to me that they are taking it very seriously.
    The first station is going to be located on a VW property and once testing is complete, they’ll begin building the others in earnest. We should have our role complete in the next month or so.

    From what I understand many of the charging stations in the Mid-Atlantic will be along the I-95 corridor and some others scattered along other major arteries.

  • avatar
    deanst

    Welcome to today’s instalment of “man in salmon pants gets electricity”. This daily feature has really captured my attention!

  • avatar
    Mike-NB

    I can’t get into the whole idea of electric cars. But you guys aren’t helping with the photo of a guy in salmon-coloured pants. Christ, those would look terrible with my hair colour!

  • avatar

    The VW dealership near my office has a level 3 charger for $0.50/kW, it doesn’t appear well used. The one at the Chargepoint HQ costs $0.25/kW and I get $0.12 overnight at home.

    A lot like “nobody buys stick-shifts (because we only offer them in the crappiest of our cars)”, this looks like an experiment set up to deliberately fail … “we built them and nobody came, can we go back to pollution cheating Diesels now please ?”

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      ^This. I’ve yet to see a for-profit EV charger that wasn’t overpriced, some exorbitantly. Likewise, they appear to have never been used, either. In fact, the only time I can actually see anyone considering their use would be in an emergency situation, and that seems predatory.

    • 0 avatar
      jh26036

      Pretty much this.

      I charge @ $0.138/kWh at home. Everything I’ve seen in public is at least double if not more. If it isn’t a free station, I don’t even bother looking.

      Since I have a Volt, the gasoline usage ends up being an equivalent of $0.19/kWh ($2.49 p/gallon as example). That’s a scenario calculating 38mpg which is the worse I’ve ever seen in the car. Mid 40mpg is very normal.

  • avatar
    la834

    I’m convinced that when EVs start catching on in a big way, most of the charging will be done at home. Solar roofs will become more common (and who knows, maybe solar tech will advance to the point where it only needs to be the size of a satellite dish, not a rooftop). The convenience of not having to stop at refueling stations will be part of the allure of electric cars, which will be charged nightly like we already to with our phones. Public charging stations will be needed for road trips and people who live in multiunit urban housing without parking, but many owners, especially early adopters, won’t frequently need them.

    The wild card is whether car sharing becomes mainstream and people don’t need to own or lease a car, and what that will do for the energy infrastructure.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Most EV charging is done at home already. In 3 years of driving a 12 Leaf, I used public chargers on a few times, and only twice did I pay for it. Partially, this was due to having such a short-range car that I couldn’t take it on the road, anyway. Longer-range EVs will require more charging away from home.

      Solar, IMO, won’t be affordable for a very long time. Solar only makes sense for someone who will enjoy it for a lifetime. For me at 54, it makes no sense to install $30k of solar panels (not to mention batteries and power management) so I can save up to $100/month on electricity.

  • avatar
    Whittaker

    I wonder how the pollution emitted by VW vehicles compares to the pollution emitted by the seemingly perpetual California wildfires.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      Dunno, but some people would suggest a connection between vehicle emissions and the hotter, drier climate that makes those fires almost inevitable.

      (ALMOST inevitable…but a spark is still required. It would be swell if California’s investor-owned utilities would maintain their transformers, gas pipelines etc. instead of running them until they literally explode, setting fire to their surroundings.)

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