News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

New Electric Car Fast-Charge Site in Downtown L.A.

Blink fast charger | Photo: Blink Network

As of yesterday, charging your electric car in one Downtown L.A. parking lot has gone from being a time-consuming ordeal to a mere inconvenience. A new Blink DC fast charger installed yesterday in a Mateo Street parking lot in Downtown's Arts District will charge a typical electric car in about half an hour, as compared with 6-8 hours for a typical "Level 2" 240-volt charging station.

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The fast charger recharges vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf with 500 volts of direct current, topping off a car battery pack much more quickly than the 220-volt Level 2 stations electric car owners install in their homes.

The new charger, which joins a row of ten Level 2 chargers already installed in the parking lot, is the first fast charger in Los Angeles.

Siting of electric vehicle chargers is tricky, and must take into account typical electric vehicle range -- 35 miles for a Chevy Volt, and about twice that for a Nissan Leaf -- and traffic patterns in the neighborhood. As the city of Boulder, Colorado has found, standard chargers in locations within round-trip range of people's homes tend not to be used; the inconvenience of long charges is just too much and people might as well just recharge at home.

Fast chargers do address some of this problem, though at a trade-off: with current technology, faster charging can reduce battery pack lifespans. And half an hour for a full charge is still longer than many parking lot visits.

One of the firms involved in yesterday's charger unveiling, Wheelz, is in the car-sharing business, which may pose a partial solution to the charge time issue as well: if well coordinated, a small fleet of electric cars shared by a group of people for short daily trips may be more amenable to central fast charging than cars used by one owner.

As storage technology improves and fast charge stations become more common, the overall futziness of making sure your car is charged for other than commuting purposes will decrease. In the meantime, the manufacturer of L.A.'s new charging station can help you make a reservation to top off your battery so that you won't get there and find three people in line ahead of you. That's something, anyway.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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The ReWire piece you reprinted is fraught with errors and bias. I suggest next time ask an EV (electric vehicle) driver on your staff to proof these pieces before releasing them.

The Volt plug-in-hybrid (pih) can not use the level-3 rapid DC CHAdeMo charger. At this time only the Leaf EV, iMiev EV, & ActiveE EV are around to use it.

GM is against CHAdeMo and for a European standard that no one else wants (the connector is huge and would be more difficult for people with less hand strength). Besides the Volt pih has a dinky pack and it would not be worth the cost of a rapid charge for only ~30+ highway speed miles. GM's pushing lots of EV laws and equipment, and they do not even have an EV for sale (only a pih).

Siting of electric vehicle chargers (aka EVSE) is not tricky or difficult as stated. No more than level-1 (a regular 120VAC outlet) or a level-2 (240VAC - a little more than the power of a clothes dryer).

An item not mentioned that would have been useful to the public that is not EV knowledgeable is to use either the Blink or the 350green CharJit level-3 CHAdeMo EVSE requires you have either their RFID card or a RFID credit card to bill for the use. The 350green CharJit card costs $21 (good for 3 prepaid $7 uses). Blink has their own cost and billing scheme.

The writer leaves the reader worried about having to wait for a rapid charge. That is their bias. Their aren't enough EVs to be even concerned, and their on-board infotainment system shows them which EVSE are not being used. It is a non-issue that should not have been mentioned.

Many Leaf EV drivers in the SF area enjoy a quick level-3 charge and do not mind paying twice the price of electricity just for the convenience. Even so, at $7 for 100 Leaf EV miles, that is still not bad, @$4/gal that would be like a 60mpge fuel car (we call them ice).