Is transportation by driving electric vehicles a flimsy fashion trend for a subsidized season or a lasting entry into the mix of cars consumers will favor purchasing in the long run? The question might not have invited itself, had San Diego’s first-in-the-nation public fast-charging station compatible with all EVs on the road been installed anywhere other than in Fashion Valley.
Houston-based NRG eVgo unveiled its “Freedom Station” in the Mission Valley mall across from Bloomingdale’s on September 30th, featuring two direct-current chargers accessible to all currently produced EVs, and which can “refuel” a depleted EV battery to 80 percent charge within a half hour. The charging station also contains one more common alternating-current Level 2 charger like those installed in home garages and other public charging facilities. The company’s long-range plans envision 20 such fast DC charging stations in San Diego County, among 200 throughout the state of California. The enterprise’s initial offering to entice customers is a deal for unlimited use of the station for 60 days at a cost of $7.95, with projected prices for at least some varying service levels expected to come in under $20 monthly.
But will tax credits and taxpayer-funded subsidies channeled through government payouts and private-enterprise early-signup deals translate into economic market sustainability for EVs? Capability for fast charging is not a standard accessory on EVs. The special port required is an extra-cost feature. And the new station has been rolled out at the same time as alarming events were announced and troubling statistics were released showing the unpopularity of all-electric and hybrid plug-in cars. Despite an influx of cash to the amount of $99.8 million in taxpayer-funded stimulus dollars, the EV charging station manufacturer Ecotality filed for bankruptcy protection in September. And over the first three-quarters of this year, such “clean energy” vehicles accounted for scant sales of less than .5 percent of the 11.7 million light vehicles bought in the United States.
At least for the time being, the paucity of widespread charging stations, the short distances that can be driven on a full EV battery charge, and the lack of consumer enthusiasm may provide the answer to the question above. Right now, EVs are not in it for the long run.