California Approves Statewide ‘Electric Expressway’

By executive order today, California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. announced a $120 million settlement to go toward statewide infrastructure to help create an “Electric Expressway,” making cross-state travel feasible for electric vehicles, and augmenting the goal of 1.5 million zero emission vehicles on California’s roads by 2025.

The settlement was with NRG Energy, Inc., and is to fund construction of a charging station network for Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEVs), that includes at least 200 public fast-charging stations and another 10,000 plug-in units at 1,000 locations across the state.

The governor’s office said the “settlement stems from California’s energy crisis,” and it is actually to resolve 10-year-old claims against Dynegy, the predecessor company to NRG Energy Inc., for costs of long-term power contracts signed in March 2001.

According to Jay Friedland, legislative director for Plug In America, the settlement actually fixes issues going back to the bad old days when Enron, Dynegy and other energy companies were manipulating the system. He said the $120 million is not unlike a tobacco company settlement, albeit in the energy sector – in question was where to spend the money where it will do the most good, and spending on electrifying the whole state was decided upon.

“Plug In America has been working tirelessly for several years to create an Electric Expressway in California and will now see it become a reality,” said Friedland who told us he’s been working on this issue for 10 years himself. “We are extremely gratified to see Governor Brown’s vision and commitment in this area.”

The governor’s office said of the settlement money, $100 million will fund fast-charging stations and the installation of the plug-in units and electrical upgrades, at no cost to taxpayers. The remaining $20 million will be directed to ratepayer relief.

Further, the governor’s office said the charging stations funded by the settlement will be installed in the San Francisco Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley, the Los Angeles Basin and San Diego County.

Initial roll-out plans are not set in stone, but Friedland said in order to see an “electric expressway” whereby a Nissan Leaf, for example, can travel from town-to-town, enough charging stations will need to be set up, with room for expansion as needed.

Friedland estimated the first phase of the plan could be underway by year’s end, and in the next 24-36 months many more chargers will be in place along major stretches of California’s interstates, sub-arteries, and in metro areas, thus making feasible north-to-south, and east-to-west travel.

Odds are that not too many in-town gas stations will get chargers with point-of-sale capability, Friedland said. Rather, he speculated, in-town charging may be at retail or rest areas “like a Starbucks or a Dunkin Donuts,” etc. With CHAdeMO level-3 fast charging, a Nissan Leaf can get about 80-percent recharged inside of 30 minutes. Shorter charge times could conceivably still supply enough current for a driver to get a remaining 10-20 miles home. The overarching plan calls also for level 2 and even level 1 chargers strategically placed.

In its broad-brush statement today, the governor’s office confirmed these intentions.

“This new infrastructure network is a breakthrough in encouraging consumer adoption of electric vehicles and will contribute significantly to achieving California’s clean car goals,” it said.

More specifically, the network is in line with ambitious plans by the California Air Resourced Board to see ZEVs become one-out-of-seven vehicles sold in state by 2025, with plans to escalate their proliferation beyond to 2050, and the governor’s executive order sets the following targets:

• By 2015, all major cities in California will have adequate infrastructure and be “zero-emission vehicle ready”

• By 2020, the state will have established adequate infrastructure to support 1 million zero-emission vehicles in California

• By 2025, there will be 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road in California; and

• By 2050, virtually all personal transportation in the State will be based on zero-emission vehicles, and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector will be reduced by 80 percent below 1990 levels.

“This executive order strengthens California’s position as a national leader in zero-emission vehicles,” said Gov. Brown, “and the settlement will dramatically expand California’s electric vehicle infrastructure, helping to clean our air and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

As might be expected, CARB Chair, Mary Nichols, praised the settlement agreement.

“California has the most aggressive clean transportation goals in the nation,” said Nichols. “The automakers are already building clean electric cars. This infrastructure infusion will give consumers the confidence to go out and buy them, which is what needs to happen for us to clean our air, lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our dependence on imported oil.”


  • Anonymous

    The states broke and their state employees are suffering so lets give away free charging station.

  • MrEnergyCzar

    That’s a great photo that people will be seeing more of… It might take a week or two to traverse the whole state with and EV charger system or 2 days in a Volt…

    MrEnergyCzar

  • Gork McSilly

    This is the stupidest idea I have ever heard of…It will not work… you would have to have literally thousands and thousands of these charging stations. Can you imagine people driving around looking for an open station? Can you imagine the lines that people will have to wait in to get charged if they are full…OF course that’s IF and a BIG IF consumers start buying electric cars…knowing that they may have to wait 30 minutes or more to charge on long trips…And if the don’t buy because of the hassle of charging…there’s a $120 million down the drain…

    Electric cars will quadruple in sales if you make it simple to charge them up…

    My solution…and I have said this before under other stupid post names…make the cars with interchangeable, slide in, slide out battery cases…kind of like a large, bulky cell phone battery that slides in the back of your battery. The charging stations would just be places with attendants that would take your worn out battery and replace it with a new one. Each station would have an ample amount of these battery cases on hand fully charged…and worn out battery case they take from you is recharged at the station and given to another person…of course…there is a cost…but it opens up all sorts of opportunities for mom and pop charging stations reminiscent of the 50′s and 60′s mom and pop gas stations. The time to change the battery case would be equivalent to filling up a 20 gallon tank of gas…

    Thoughts?????

  • Gork McSilly

    Here is a re-write of poast above that I wrote to Governor Jerry Browns office…

    About the charging stations….

    You are on the right train…but totally on the wrong track headed to nowhere..

    It will not work… you would have to have literally thousands and thousands of these charging stations. Can you imagine people driving around looking for an open station? Can you imagine the lines that people will have to wait in to get charged if they are full…OF course that’s IF and a BIG IF consumers start buying electric cars…knowing that they may have to wait 30 minutes or more to charge on long trips…And if they don’t buy because of the hassle of charging…and believe me…it is a huge hassle…and stressful if you are practically on empty with more than a few miles to go…there’s a $120 million down the drain…

    Electric cars will quadruple in sales if you make it simple to charge them up…

    My solution…and I have said this before on other web sites that deal with hybrid and electric technology…work with the auto manufacturers via tax incentives and grants to make the all electric cars with interchangeable, slide in, slide out battery cases…I envision it being as easy as a devise in back end of a car that “ejects” the battery much like an old VHS player ejects a tape.

    The charging stations that have inventory of these battery cases then, would just be road stops like gas stations with attendants that would take your worn out battery and replace it with a new one. Each station would have an ample amount of these battery cases on hand fully charged…and worn out battery cases they take from motorists are recharged at the station and given to another person…

    Of course…there would be a cost…but it opens up all sorts of opportunities for mom and pop charging stations reminiscent of the 50′s and 60′s mom and pop gas stations. The time to change the battery case would be equivalent to filling up a 20 gallon tank of gas…and would cost much less if you use part of that $120 million to defray start-up costs for the stations.

    Thoughts?????

  • Shines

    Hey @Gork McSilly. I beg to differ. The slide out battery idea would require the goverment or the whole industry to agree on a specific battery size and shape (not likely). Batteries are very expensive having to stock them at a station and swap them in and out of cars would also be very expensive. Talk about waiting in line… to get your battery swapped at a station. It would be better driving up to a Denny’s or a McDonalds (or a Mom and Pop restaurant/site) (which you would know has an available charge station from your smart phone app (no driving around looking for one)). Take a break let your car charge and enjoy a nice lunch or a snack. Strip malls would want to have rows of parking with chargers knowing the folks stopping would likely browse their mall shops. City and state parks would want chargers so folks could take a walk, stretch, enjoy the scenery and take in the sites while their cars are charging. Sure you would need a lot of these chargers, but you wouldn’t need full service stations – just parking places. Seems like a nice way to travel. Drive for an hour or two and then take a 30 minute break at a place other than a “station”. And then continue on the journey to the next recharge site/rest stop until you reach your destination.

  • Jimmy P

    I could not agree more with “Shines”. You could just imagine a world where people rest every couple of hundred miles instead of pushing to go as far as you can until falling aspleep at the wheel. Instead of “stations” where it would be a sterile environment you coud simply pull up to an eatery, shoping mall, take a stroll in the park, shoot some hoops, etc. This would not only benefit businesses that cater to charging customers but also a boon to humanity by having a chance to relax, exercise, site-seeing or simply read a book while waiting for a charge.

  • Gork McSilly

    Shines and Jimmy…I don’t know what planet you two are from…but…We don’t live in that world where we can rest, take our time, relax and read a book on our way to a destination. I don’t know about you, but I have a job that takes up 50 hours of my week. If I am going to a destination, I want to get there quickly and enjoy myself, not have to stop and force myself to do other things I don’t necessarily want to do.

    Popping a battery pack out like a VHS player can be quick and easy…you’d have to run a battery station like the old gas stations in the 60′s…with attendants that take the batteries out and put another in…that would take about 10 minutes with the right car design…Yes, car companies would have to redesign the access point of the batteries…but making it easy would change everything…taking a half hour to charge for 90-100 miles of driving tops is a pain in the Tookas and will forever impede sales…Now make it a 10 minute battery pack change….not so bad…

  • Benjamin Hadd

    Must have been difficult to find an electric car being charged at one of these stations, let alone 3. I mean really. Its awfully rare to find a vehicle getting charged at one of these charging stations. Now the state is dumping a $120 million into more chargers. This is fantasyland.

  • TRONZ

    Can some of these above guys even read??? The $120,000,000 is a FINE being payed by NRG to California. Get it? Its money being paid TO California. The form of the currency is public EV charging infrastructure since NRG owns evGo who does this sort of thing anyways. It’s actually a very smart move by both parties because CA will burn less gas (decreasing its price!) and NRG gets a big discount on their fine since they have wholesale access to all the hardware.

    The real news is that with this deal, CA just launched ChadeMo to the forefront of quick charging standards for the USA. GM and SAE are now that much further behind.

  • Shines

    Gork McSilly you say: “We don’t live in that world where we can rest, take our time, relax and read a book on our way to a destination.” I must say I feel sadness for your situation. Maybe if you got a little more sleep you would realize that if EVs did become as popular as we would hope for it would take a lot more time than 10 minutes for sliding 300 lb batteries in and out of various sized vehicles. Jimmy P’s point is valid about the sterile environment of a station which would need multiple bays for swapping all these batteries and a huge warehouse/recharging garage for all of them. I am sure in a few more years batteries will have enough density to travel more like 300 miles. And if you can’t take 15 – 30 minutes out of a 5 hour drive to let your batteries recharge – I would suggest that you rethink your priorities…

  • LynnM

    After reading some of these coments it becomes quite apparent how great gas powered vehicles really are. The ease of refueling/reenergising they are. How quick and easy it is to transfer that amount of energy. What a massive infrastucture we have in place to do this and what a massive undertaking it would be to build a new electric refueling system.
    And don’t forget these “zero emission” electrics ultimately get about 70% of their energy from the burning of coal and natural gas and I might add at a reduced efficiency because every time you convert energy..burn- generate heat-spin generators- transmit-convert voltage- convert AC to DC you lose some. So for example the gallon of gas(just assume for the moment using gas to generate electricity) you burn at the electric power plant only finally converts to about a third of a gallon going into the car. CLEAN ????

  • AP

    LynnM, thanks for a very concise statement of the technological advantages of the “dirty old” internal combustion engine!

    I would only add the the ICE gets more efficient every year, so it will be increasingly hard to catch.

  • Shines

    Ah sorry to say LynnM and AP but dirty old internal combustions are. Of the amount of energy in a galon of gasoline – only 20 percent actually propels the vehicle, the rest is wasted heat and noise. That 92 mpge rating the EPA gives to electric vehicles means the energy equivalent of a gallon of gas goes 92 miles in the ev. You are right that there is a huge infrastructure already in place for ICEs but the electric infrastructure is already huge and in place in the form of power to every home. You are also right that the energy density of todays batteries does not match the density of equal weight of gasoline. However, let’s not forget the environmental damage from driving ICEs is immediate and more widespread than the coal fired electric generation plants in the US. Solar and Wind energy is replacing larger and larger percentages of our power and as batteries continue to improve so will the value of EVs. And don’t forget that battery hybrids are significantly more efficient than conventional ICEs, because they use batteries to assist the ICE and regenerative braking to recover energy that is wasted with standard brakes. So AP if you mean the hybrid ICE gets more efficient every year then I agree with you.

  • AP

    Shines, in electric propulsion, only 20-25 percent of the fuel burned to produce it goes into powering the vehicle. The rest goes up the smokestack, out the cooling tower, heat from the transmission lines, and heat from the battery. About the same overall efficiency as an ICE. Even environmentalist books will say this.

    The MPGe from the EPA is therefore exaggerated. It “pretends” that 1 kW-hr of electrical energy in a battery is equivalent to 1 kW-hr of heat in the fuel. But with electricity, you’ve already lost 2/3 to 3/4 of the energy in the generation process (as listed above). MPGe should be divided by about 3 to make physical sense.