By Arun Banskota
Earlier this month, Tesla Motors continued to push the electric vehicle industry forward, announcing a more affordable EV that will be available in 2017. Tesla now has a lot of company, with every major automaker, from BMW to Nissan, from Volkswagen to Mitsubishi, selling EVs or announcing plans to get their EVs to market.
Given the building buzz, are we finally at a tipping point for EVs? I firmly believe so. In the four years since EVs first debuted (and the three years since I have been driving one), the number of auto makers participating in the electric drive market has increased seven times, and there are nine times more EV models available for purchase. Yet, that tipping point will not happen unless we solve the charging needs of these vehicles. It wasn’t automotive mass production that brought about the golden age of the car but rather the interstate highway systems and the ubiquity of fueling stations.
Drivers are accustomed to omnipresent gas stations — seeing one on every corner and having the freedom to choose whichever gas station they want. But, as more automakers enter the EV market, how do we ensure EV drivers feel the same level of convenience, reliability and accessibility?
NRG eVgo is working hard to make it easy to drive an EV. Today, we have comprehensive EV charging networks in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, the greater Washington, D.C. area, Dallas and Houston, with public, home, workplace, apartment community and on-the-go charging stations that give range confidence to EV drivers. And, we are in the process of expanding to additional metropolitan areas (stand by for more announcements on these markets). We want EV drivers to be able to confidently leave their homes and go about their business with the same assurance as their gas-powered counterparts.
Confidence is more than just the number of chargers. It is also about convenience to charge quickly, reliably and at desirable locations. eVgo has increased our total number of fast charging sites by more than 40 percent in the last six months and, according to the Department of Energy, currently owns, operates and manages the largest network of fast-charging sites in the nation, allowing EV drivers to charge their vehicles in a matter of minutes. Our DC fast chargers have powered more than 2.1 million electric miles so far. We complement this with Level 2 chargers at your home, workplace, apartment community and other convenient locations.
We’ve always been committed to creating a network that supports all EV drivers whenever, wherever and however they choose to charge — whether at home, at work, on the road, at their apartment community or even at the airport. eVgo is the first multi-standard network, providing both CHAdeMO and SAE Combo fast-charging standards as well as Level 2 charging at our Freedom Station sites. This means we are able to support all EVs on the road today. And the support we’re providing means we’re creating a better, healthier planet. Over the last three years, since our first installation in April 2011, electric car drivers that charged at eVgo charging stations eliminated 911 tons of CO2 and avoided using more than 100,000 gallons of gas.
We are also setting a new standard in ensuring drivers don’t have to drive past a charging station because it is not in their network by offering the first multi-card network. We can take any card from any major charging network. We are also introducing the first eVgo chargers, starting with California, which have credit card readers.
Similar to 1908 when Ford’s Model T was first available, we’re at a turning point in the automotive industry. Just as the original automobile saw its “glory days” once we’d established a solid infrastructure of roads, highways and gas pumps, we are excited to be leading the way in providing EV drivers with confidence in a charging network designed with their needs in mind.
Arun Banskota is president of NRG Energy’s Electric Vehicle Services, also known as eVgo. He has more than 20 years of experience in developing, financing and managing renewable and fossil energy projects around the world.