A recent study examining key reasons why Americans don’t buy electric-powered vehicles found that drivers fear their batteries will run out of juice and leave them stranded with no place to charge up.
That’s not a problem at the University of Minnesota, where the first DC Fast Charging station was installed last month in Stadium Village at Washington Avenue and Harvard Street. The super charger, which looks like an oversized gas pump with the requisite nozzle and hose, can get a car battery to 80 percent capacity in 30 minutes. Another plus is that the dual charger, which is one of the first of its kind in the state, accommodates plug-in vehicles that run charge on Asian or American/European standards.
With its arrival, the U now has 13 charging stations in lots and ramps on the East and West banks. The other 12 are Level II chargers, which run on AC current and take up to four hours to fully charge a vehicle. The stations, which are free to use (the normal parking fee still applies), have been busy with vehicles plugged in about 6 hours a day. More chargers are likely, said Steve Sanders, the U’s alternative transportation manager.
“We believe electric vehicles are sustainable, generate less pollution and demand is growing,” he said. “For there to be wider adoption [of electric vehicles], there needs to be a more robust network.”
The study published in the “Articles in Advance” section of the journal Manufacturing and Service Operations Management said “range anxiety,” meaning the battery range is not enough to meet a driver’s needs, is a key factor restraining electric vehicle sales. The range of most vehicles is 60 to 100 miles.
That is starting to change. Once a novelty, power stations have popped across Hennepin and Ramsey counties. Minneapolis has seen steady use of its 39 stations, with 1,731 sessions at 80 cents an hour logged since they went live a year ago. There also has been a surge in power stations nationwide. Over the next several months, Kansas City Power & Light says it will install more than 1,000 charging sites in the greater Kansas City area.
There are more than 9,000 places to charge up across the United States, said Genevieve Cullen, president of the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA).
“The proliferation of diverse charging stations and options at schools, work, commercial establishments and along the highway is increasing confidence that using electric vehicles will not be a limiting choice,” Cullen said. “There are enough charging stations that can meet their needs. That is an indication of a strong market, a fact the U is recognizing.”
California is home to more than half the 300,000 electric vehicles on the roads — a small number compared to the 250 million registered vehicles in the country. But plug-in vehicles are gaining traction, Cullen said, including in Minnesota where 1 or 2 of every 1,000 vehicles sold is now electric or a hybrid, according to the EDTA.
Nationally, the EDTA says that 11,286 plug-in vehicles were sold in December and 118,773 were sold last year, up from 96,702 in 2013.
“There is a great push in this market as the University of Minnesota so wisely notes,” Cullen said. “The growth in charging and of plug-in vehicles is reinforcing the market.”