From maps to apps, we make it easy to find EV charging stations near you.
By Stephen Williams
Through the decades the automobile has spawned dozens of cottage industries—the drive-in movie, the car hop on roller skates, the car wash and, of course, the ubiquitous filling station with its unmistakable gas pumps.
Enter the EV (electric vehicle) charging station, the filling station of the future: no pumps, just plugs.
Owners of cars that use electric power in one form or another—cars like Chevy’s Volt, which combines a battery and a gas-powered generator—can now drive coast to coast, or from Maine to Florida, or just about any place in between in the United States, without fear of “range anxiety.” The 2013 Volt’s total driving range on a full battery charge and a full tank of gas is an EPA-estimated 380 miles*; on a full battery charge alone it’s an EPA-estimated 38 miles**.
The U.S. Department of Energy is the driving force (pardon the pun) behind collective efforts to pinpoint nearly 4,000 electric charging stations with public access across the country with the list growing daily as the DOE assembles data retrieved by its National Renewable Energy Laboratory and updates the primary list twice a month.
In many states, plug-in-vehicle drivers also have access to charging stations at libraries, shopping centers, hospitals and businesses. This infrastructure is quickly expanding, providing drivers with the convenience and confidence they require.
Niketa Kumar, a spokesperson for the DOE in Washington, told us that the department has partnered with several industry electronics companies, including Google, Tom Tom, Best Buy, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Coulomb, “to improve collection and analysis of public electric charging station data. With the support of more than 80 public and private sector organizations,” she said, “including charging equipment manufacturers, installers and charging networks; vehicle manufacturers, Internet and GIS companies, and major consumer goods retailers, we are working to provide consumers with consistent, up-to-date information about the EV charging stations in communities nationwide.”
*Fuel saved is based on this approved formula: Miles per gallon = [Difference in Total Miles Driven in kms (current-previous) * 0.621/ Difference in lifetime fuel used *0.264]. Fuel Avoided = (Difference in Total Miles/ Official MPG for U.S. passenger cars) — (difference in Total Miles/ Miles per gallon).
The DOE also offers other information for EV owners and those considering an EV or plug-in—including mapping services—at its Alternative Fuels & Advanced Vehicles Data Center site. While the Energy Department does not itself offer smartphone apps to help drivers locate charging stations, a variety of applications are being launched to ease the process. For example, Coulomb Technologies Inc. lists which ChargePoint stations are available, in use or out of service, all in real time.
Among the EV location apps for the iPhone®—as well as for the iPod touch® and the iPad®—is Xatori’s free PlugShare (available on the iTunes® site), which allows users to type in an address or zip code to find stations on the PlugShare map. So where does the “Share” come in? Well, the app also lists ordinary folks—the PlugShare community—who will offer EV users the opportunity to plug in to their home outlets to recharge.
Of course, the worry of running low on electric juice doesn’t faze drivers of the Volt. It’s electric when you want it, gas when you need it. If the battery runs low, the Volt automatically transitions to a unique gasoline range–extending capability.
Chevrolet currently offers an eight-year/100,000-mile limited warranty*** on the Volt’s battery pack. See your local Chevy dealer for details, or download the entire Volt warranty from Chevrolet.com/volt
*Based on an EPA-estimated 98 MPGe (electric); 35 MPG city/40 highway (gas).
**Based on an EPA-estimated 98 MPGe.
***Whichever comes first. See dealer for details.
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Stephen Williams has written about cars and the automobile industry for The New York Times and Automotive News, and is a former staff writer and columnist for Newsday. Some months ago he test drove a Volt and found the experience ... electrifying.