Stations can also be purchased directly from manufacturers such as Blink, whose Level 2 home model retails for $1,495. Blink's Level 2 stations are also being installed at workplaces and in public spaces such as parking garages as part of the EV Project. ECOtality has installed a few of Blink's "Cadillac" charging stations, fast 480-volt DC chargers can deliver a full charge in just 25 minutes.
Long charging times and relatively short mileage ranges from a single charge are the biggest factors that drive potential customers away from EV ownership at present. The Tesla has the longest range, but it comes with a higher price tag than the competitors.
Under the program, which is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy, 6,500 chargers have been installed in homes throughout the United States. The amount covered for installation cost is as low as $400 in some regions.
To receive a charging station for free through the EV Project, the homeowner must agree to share data from it with the federal government. Data collected so far from the stations of Leaf and Chevrolet Volt (a hybrid plug-in model that also uses gasoline) drivers since 2009 covers 63 million miles of travel and offers a wealth of information on EV trends, including an increase in use of chargers away from home, according to Smith. The EV Project is winding down but is still accepting applications.
Of his own installation, Fujimoto said, "It was very seamless for us." Still, it was not without challenges. The application process took three months, and when the station was installed in June, the first one did not work when tested. But the installer replaced it immediately with another from his truck, and that one tested OK.
Jack Brown, who drives an electric BMW ActiveE, had a ChargePoint CT500 station installed at his Aptos, Calif., home for free by taking a different route. He received it through a program funded by the California Energy Commission, but he was expecting to pay $400 for a permit and inspection earlier this year. In the end, however, Brown decided to add solar panels to his home, too, and he negotiated a deal with no out-of-pocket expenses for the upgrade of his electrical panel and installation of the solar PV (photovoltaic) panels, which generate power for his own use and potentially an excess for the electric grid. SolarCity leases the PV panels that have been installed to Brown for $160 a month.
ChargePoint, like Blink, has a network of level 2 chargers in commercial use. Both manufacturers issue cards that drivers use to activate the chargers. Both also offer smartphone apps and websites that can alert drivers to whether a charger is currently being used by another vehicle or not. These Web tools also notify the companies if a charger malfunctions.
Today, EV owners remain a tiny minority among drivers in the United States, and the early adopters make up a tight-knit community that shares information on blogs and online forums. Some even share their electricity. Brown has listed his home charging station with Recargo and PlugShare to let other EV drivers know it is available to them, if needed.
Fujimoto has opted to keep his garage charging station private. "I'm not that much of an electric (vehicle) advocate that I would allow strangers to come by," he said.
Even so, Fujimoto said he loves the EV life. "People have to really experience it to understand -- to really understand what I mean."
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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