Build-Out of EV Fast Chargers Continues, Thanks to Nissan and BMW

By · December 28, 2015

BMW i3 and Nissan LEAF charging

While the vast majority of electric vehicle charging takes place at home overnight, fast chargers are capable of bringing an EV like the Nissan LEAF or BMW i3 to 80 percent charge in 20 to 30 minutes. Nissan and BMW announced last week that the two companies will add 120 new quick-charge locations across 19 key EV states. The move is part of a trend that has seen the number of quick-charge stations rapidly expand in 2015.

The effort by Nissan and BMW partly addresses the issue of quick-charging standards—or lack thereof. The Nissan LEAF, by far the most popular all-electric car, requires a CHAdeMO connector to receive a quick charge. The CHAdeMO website currently indicates that there are nearly 1,400 quick-charge stations using its connector in the United States. There are far fewer—perhaps a few hundred—of the SAE Combined Charging Standard (CCS) stations used by European and American carmakers.

The 120 new 50-kilowatt chargers solve the problem by offering two charge cords from a single spot, meaning that either type of quick-charge connector will be compatible. (It's roughly the equivalent of a gas-station pump having separate nozzles for different types of liquid fuel.) Meanwhile, there are nearly 600 Tesla Superchargers (which are only compatible with Tesla vehicles, such as the Model S and Model X).

The newly announced installations are distributed among 19 key plug-in vehicle states: including California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, North and South Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Quick-chargers commonly add about 50 to 60 miles of range in about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, 240-volt Level 2 chargers—which are much more readily available, including at home—add about 20 to 25 miles of driving range in an hour.

Nearly all EVs come with enough range for typical daily commutes, but cars like the 2016 Nissan LEAF (with an official range of 107 or 84 miles, depending on the model) aren’t capable of making long trips on one charge alone. For drivers willing to make a 20- to 30-minute pit stop, fast-chargers extend the range for practical regional trips. More adventurous and patient electric car drivers can take even longer trips.

The cost for installing a public fast-charger is considered to be about 20 times greater than Level 2 chargers. While some car companies and plug-in advocates believe that ubiquitous quick-charging is essential to mainstream electric car adoption, the business case is not entirely certain—beyond the ability for EV manufacturers to market the feature and thereby address concerns about limited range. This partly explains why carmakers themselves are taking the lead. The vast majority of electric car drivers seldom use fast chargers, but rather conveniently charge their battery-powered vehicles at home overnight.

Nissan is already responsible for the installation of hundreds of CHAdeMO chargers across the U.S. It previously built a fast-charge network at dealerships in key EV markets and partnered with NRG’s EVgo network on the installation of others. BMW collaborated with Volkswagen earlier this year to open about 100 CCS chargers. The BMW i3 was the first model on the US market to use the CCS standard.

The importance of quick-chargers could increase in the coming years, as the driving range of upcoming electric cars expands from about 100 miles per charge—to as much as 200 to 300 miles.

Learn more about the Quick Charging of Electric Cars by visiting our guide.

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