A $654 million plan to build more than 25,000 charging stations for electric vehicles in California has been turned down by state regulators who expressed concerns about the potential for unfair competition.
Pacific Gas & Electric filed the proposal in February, proposing to fund the network with money collected from ratepayers. The company said its plan would have helped further Gov. Jerry Brown’s goal of getting 1.5 million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road by 2025, according to a report at Greentech Media.
While the utility described the plan as “essential to California’s success in achieving a reduction in greenhouse gases,” the California Public Utilities Commission said a “more measured approach” was needed.
A typical residential customer would have paid an extra 70 cents a month under the proposal, but consumer groups said it was unfair to increase costs for people who didn’t own EVs and wouldn’t directly benefit from the charging stations.
The San Jose Mercury News reported the stations would have been built in PG&E’s service area, which covers northern and central California.
Private companies worried that PG&E would stifle competition and innovation because the utility would have broad control over the design of the charging stations and the support services for the network, the newspaper said.
Pasquale Romano, chief executive officer of Campbell-based ChargePoint, which sells charging stations to businesses that set up the facilities in public locations, told the Mercury News, PG&E’s original plan was “anti-competitive,” and that the network should be allowed “to evolve in an innovative and competitive way.”
“The last time we let a monopoly control the end of the network, for decades all we got was those black rotary phones that sat on your table,” Romano told the newspaper. “When we allowed competition for that, we got cordless phones, answering machines, modems, and eventually Internet access. We created an awesome business.”
Largest EV market in the U.S.
Electric vehicles make up a small slice of the overall automotive market, but PG&E has a lot of them in its service area–roughly 65,000 vehicles, or 20 percent of all the EVs in the country, Greentech Media says.
The website Inside EVs, which keeps a running tally of sales, says 72,270 EVs had been sold in the U.S. this year through the end of August. The Tesla Model S is the most popular, with 14,500 units reported sold so far in 2015. The Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt are the next two best sellers.
One of the problems with electric vehicles is their limited driving range (the 30 kWh Leaf, for example, has an estimated range of 107 miles). An expanding network of charging stations will certainly help make the vehicles more appealing.
The U.S. Department of Energy maintains a searchable database of stations offering alternate fuels, including electricity. ChargePoint, whose network of EV charging stations includes nearly 24,000 locations, also allows users to search for local stations on its website. Drivers may also have other options, depending on where they live. Some charging points are free, others charge a fee.
Two other large California electric utilities also have come up with plans to support the spread of EVs. Southern California Edison last year submitted a plan to develop the infrastructure for as many as 30,000 charging stations over the next few years, an earlier report at Greentech Media said, while San Diego Gas & Electric submitted a plan to install as many as 5,500 EV chargers in its service area.