Where is the fast charge infrastructure we were promised?

This last weekend I took a trip to Dickson TN. We had to leave the LEAF at home due to a lack of quick chargers in our area. The journey is about 60 miles in each direction making it a 120 mile round trip. This is out of range for the LEAF unless one can charge at some point during the journey. A charge via a 110v outlet would take way too long, even charging at the Nissan dealership at a dedicated charging station in Dickson would mean a 4-5 hour charge to get us home. Fast chargers offer the ability to charge in under 30 minutes, if we had access to one along the way we could easily have taken the LEAF.

Cracker Barrel Proposed EV Quick Charge Locations

During the vehicle launch and surrounding  hype in the media at the end of 2010 , the story was fast chargers would be made available no later than July 2011 at fifty plus locations in Tennessee, 12 of which would be on interstates at Cracker Barrel restaurants. Due to protracted delays obtaining UL Laboratories electrical certification, none have been installed. Fast charging stations installed last year at pioneering cities such as Vacaville ,Califonia has been closed due to this delay. Internet rumors point to a September 2011 approval from UL with installs to follow thereafter. It’s a shame for the delay, because Tennessee was to be the first state to have the ability for EV’s to drive from one metro area to another. Here’s what was said this time last year

Tennessee is the first state to take the electric vehicle beyond its 100-mile radius. With these plans completed, the state of Tennessee will emerge as a leader in EV adoption, and serve as a critical blueprint for how best to connect major population areas with EV infrastructure,”

Sounded great then, but delay after delay makes one wonder if the promised infrastructure will be delivered at all. The politicians will be focusing on election runs, the economy and kissing babies, not infrastructure projects. Let’s hope the project doesn’t loose steam before the election.

Click to Enlarge

At the same time that the fast charge stations are held in a holding pattern awaiting certification, the SAE standards authority has come up with a ‘new’ type of plug that differs from the one fitted to 10,000 Nissan LEAF’s already on the streets. CHAdeMO type charging ports are fast becoming a de facto standard the world over, with many installations in Japan and Europe. Nissan and Mitsubishi have fitted CHAdeMO ports to their vehicles. The USA has decided it needs a standard that is different from this and plans to introduce the new standard as soon as it can be ratified no earlier than Q1 2012. It is being billed as a new ‘world standard’. The USA’s unquestioned  dominance in auto-making is no longer, I wonder how the world will adopt the standard established by  a US automotive standards group.

Regardless of which standard is superior or adopted, it is clear that the certification and standards authorities cannot keep up with the rapid pace of technological development. Competition like occurred with Beta/VHS will end up both confusing and ultimately costing consumers to make a switch once a dominant standard is clear. These delays hinder the adoption of EV’s in general, past attempts to introduce EV’s fell by the wayside.

2012 will be a pivotal year when electric vehicles either take hold or drop off. Having driven the LEAF for almost a month, I’d hate to have to return to a gasoline car again. The driving experience is so much better.

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