In a big boost to current and prospective electric car owners, most of a $120-million settlement with an energy company will be used to build a vast network of charging stations in California.
The money will be used to construct at least 200 public fast-charging stations and install wiring for 10,000 plug-in units at 1,000 locations across the state, Gov. Jerry Brown said Friday. He also announced that he had signed an executive order laying out the foundation for 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles to be on California’s roads by 2025.
The fee-based fast-charging stations are to be installed in Southern California, the San Francisco Bay Area and the San Joaquin Valley. For a typical electric vehicle, the station can add 50 miles of range in less than 15 minutes of charging.
The settlement with NRG Energy Inc. stemmed from accusations of inflated costs on long-term power contracts involving plants co-owned by NRG and Dynegy Inc. during the energy crisis of 2000 and 2001. Six years ago, NRG acquired Dynegy’s interest in the energy plants in question as well as the responsibility to resolve the allegations.
Even as consumers have grown more familiar with electric cars, adoption of the vehicles in the state has been slower than many environmentalists, clean-tech firms and car companies would like because of a lack of public infrastructure to support the cars. The new network, the governor’s office said, “is a breakthrough in encouraging consumer adoption of electric vehicles.”
John O’Dell, senior green car editor at Edmunds.com, owns a Nissan Leaf and has an in-home charger but said the lack of public charging stations “limits it to second-car status.”
“I liken the home charger to kind of a tether,” he said. “Without public charging, I’ve basically got a 35-mile leash on my car.”
The settlement to create an “Electric Expressway” will turn “range anxiety into range confidence” for EV owners, said NRG Chief Executive David Crane.
“It breaks the chicken-and-egg problem that electric vehicles have. Their greatest limitation is where to charge them,” he said. “In the normal course of business it’s tough to build a charging infrastructure unless there’s enough electric vehicles. It was always which comes first.”
The settlement “will launch a virtuous circle in which ever more Californians will feel comfortable driving EVs,” said Michael R. Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission.
“Growing EV sales will, in turn, attract ever more investment in charging infrastructure to our state,” he said, which would in turn create more jobs, cut air pollution and help the state achieve its greenhouse gas reduction goals.
The governor’s office said $100 million from the settlement would fund the 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.
To use the fast-charging stations, consumers will be able to pay for monthly subscriptions or pay as they go. The price of the monthly subscriptions has not yet been set, but the pay-as-you-go price will be between $10 and $15 per use, an NRG spokesman said.
“This executive order strengthens California’s position as a national leader in zero-emission vehicles,” Brown said in a statement, “and the settlement will dramatically expand California’s electric vehicle infrastructure, helping to clean our air and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”
Nissan on Friday lauded the “landmark” commitment and said more than 40% of the 11,000 Leafs sold in the U.S. are being used in California. The company said the settlement “paves the way for widespread adoption of this critical technology.”
Times staff writer Jerry Hirsch contributed to this report.