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Chevrolet, Nissan Aim for EV Charge Stations At Every Turn

Sections: Fuel Economy

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A Chevrolet Volt charges at work

A Chevrolet Volt is parked at a workplace charging station powered by large solar panels. Chevrolet and Nissan were among a handful of automakers to sign up for the EPA’s “Workplace Charging Challenge,” an effort to get more employers to install charging stations to make EVs a more viable choice for everyday commuting. (Chevrolet photo courtesy ChevroletVoltAge.com.)

Separately, but on the same day, Chevrolet and Nissan crowed about plans to spur installation of EV charging stations in tons of new places. But will it take root?

We recently told you how Nissan, Diamler, and Ford have announced their intention to work cooperatively on hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCVEs) in an effort to drive down the cost of fuel cell technology and spur growth of the refueling infrastructure necessary for those cars, considered by many to be the EV of the future. In the meantime, Nissan said it is hoping to triple the amount of EV quick chargers by installing 500 of the charging stations across the country in 18 months.

Nissan outlined the plan at the Washington International Auto Show this week. It said the strategy is three-pronged, focusing on installing more chargers at Nissan dealers, at the places where EV owners work, and in strategic areas of neighborhoods where people do most of their shopping and recreational activities. For those who live just far enough away from work to have so-called “range anxiety,” the workplace charger could make an EV a viable option.

Nissan Director of Electric Vehicle Marketing and Sales Strategy Brendan Jones said, “There are now about 1,500 private charging stations that exist in workplaces, allowing for what’s called ‘end-to-end’ charging. That means that the car’s battery is fully charged when the driver leaves home, and it will be fully charged when that person leaves work. It’s another way to give electric vehicle drivers more flexibility to run errands and make other stops between work and home.”

Chevrolet wants to allow owners of its Volt PHEV more electric-only driving time by pursuing a similar strategy, mostly by encouraging employers to install charging stations. As part of the multi-company “Workplace Charging Challenge” set forth by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the goal is to increase the number of employers offering charging facilities tenfold within the next five years, Chevy said.

Perhaps both Nissan and Chevrolet were touting their EV infrastructure-boosting plans on the same day because EPA was also announcing the names of the partners who have signed on to tackle its Workplace Charging Challenge– and of course, both Chevy and Nissan are on the list. Also on the list: Google, Verizon, 3M, Eli Lilly and Company, GE, Siemens, Duke Energy, San Diego Gas and Electric, Chrysler, Ford, and Tesla.

The Challenge comes as part of President Obama’s “EV Everywhere Grand Challenge” that seeks wider adoption of electric vehicles and the infrastructure to power them as a strategy for decreasing the nation’s appetite for imported oil and improving its economy through consumers’ fuel savings and domestic job creation– because somebody has to install and service all these new charging stations, for starters.

The Workplace Charging Challenge also will play an important role in meeting the goals of the EPA’s “EV Everywhere Blueprint.” But more on that later. What’s important for now is that some of the nation’s largest employers and the current titans of the PHEV and EV marketplace are pledging to increase the number of places those cars can be charged– a move that should mean good things for both the future viability of EVs and for the development of EV technologies.

While nobody can say for sure if the plan will work the way the EPA wants– i.e. lowering consumer prices of EVs and improving battery technologies while reducing costs– perhaps it will serve to keep EVs viable for an increasing number of commuters until those hydrogen FCEVs come on-line with their longer driving distances between charges and their ability to be recharged as quickly as a fossil fuel-powered car.

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