This is what the $100 million that NRG Energy is obligated by a legal settlement to invest in battery electric vehicle (BEV) charging infrastructure in California will buy for plug-in car owners:

  • A $50.5 million investment in 200 eVgo Freedom Station sites installed at carefully chosen commercial and retail locations, each with a level-three DC fast charger as well as a level-two medium-speed charger;
  • A $40 million investment in 10,000 make-ready electrical installations, upgraded to 30 amp-capable and prepared for either a level-one or level-two charger installation to be completed within 24 hours to 48 hours
  • A $9 million investment in advanced BEV charging technology and BEV car sharing programs.

 

Plug In America, a key electric vehicle advocacy group, described the infrastructure build out as an 'electric expressway' for the state.

The eVgo Freedom Stations’ level-three DC fast chargers, each capable of putting a 50 percent charge on a fully electric vehicle in fifteen minutes, will constitute the U.S.’ biggest fast-charger network. The focus of the effort will be in the areas of Los Angeles (110 stations), San Francisco (55), San Joaquin Valley (15) and San Diego County (20), where BEV interest is expected to be highest. NRG Energy will locate at least 20 percent of them in urban areas where they will be more accessible to low- and moderate income groups.

Leaders in the electric vehicle advocacy community expressed satisfaction along with concern at the initial settlement. “Basically, we see that this settlement could be a good deal for California and get a lot of charging in the ground,” said Plug In America President Jay Friedland, “but the devil is in the details, especially when it comes to access and business models.”

Many noted that a widespread and readily available network of chargers could significantly ease the range anxiety that is a barrier to greater electric vehicle adoption.

With the announcement of these details, which include many concerns outlined by advocates such as like Friedland such as open access, interoperability and transparency, plug-in drivers will have the opportunity to judge the truth in eVgo President Arun Banskota’s asserting that “we are in the business of providing range confidence.”

The stations will be owned and operated by NRG Energy and be much like the AeroVironment-built stations in NRG’s Houston charger network. They will be credit- and debit-card accessible. Plug-in vehicle drivers will have both pay-as-you-go and subscription access. Pay-as-you-go prices will be no more than $15 per charge during peak demand periods and $10 per charge during off-peak hours.

The make-ready sites will be owned by the property owner and distributed in the same proportion as the eVgo Freedom Stations. Each must be in an investor-owned utility’s service territory; 35 percent must be at multi-family locations, 15 percent at workplaces, 10 percent at public interest sites like a school, a university or a hospital.

Preparing these sites’ electrical panels, transformers and wiring for charging infrastructure, said NRG Energy’s Arun Banskota, will pave the way for the 60 percent of the public that does not live in single-family homes that are readily amenable to the addition of charging infrastructure.

Eighteen months after installation, all charger infrastructure providers will have complete access to the make-readies. This is one of the more controversial elements of the plan, because it limits competition early on.

Banskota noted that the $9 million investment in BEV development programs will move the technology forward and expose more people to it. A total of $5 million will go to develop battery storage for peak demand periods, very high power charging capability, or for vehicle-to-grid pilot programs. The other $4 million will go to EV car sharing programs and job training programs in the charger infrastructure field.

According to NRG Energy, these investments resolve “all outstanding claims and disputes” pertaining to litigation between Dynegy, bought by NRG Energy in 2006, and the state, represented by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), over unsatisfactorily fulfilled electricity contracts during the 2000-01 energy crisis.

For the entire undertaking, NRG Energy has agreed to hire local workers for the construction and for operations and maintenance. It has also agreed to comply with California programs that emphasize attention and preference to women-owned, disabled veteran-owned and minority-owned businesses.

The first year of the undertaking, Banskota said, is likely see slow progress due to issues like permitting and distribution system interconnections. By year two, he said, there will be a ramp-up. The company expects to complete 20 percent of the Freedom Stations in year one, 30 percent in each of the next two years, and the final 20 percent in the last year.

There will be an application process for the selection of the sites, Banskota said. It has not yet been determined.

Vendors will be selected through a competitive bidding process, following an NRG request for proposals. All vendors will be required to build to CHAdeMo and SAE standards.

Banskota noted that the final settlement arrangement between NRG and the CPUC must still be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Likely to be little more than a formality, that approval is expected by late summer.

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