Electric Charging Stations Delayed in California; Network Only 10 Percent Complete

Nov 22, 2013 10:29 AM EST | Jordan Ecarma

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California energy officials are hoping to have 1.5 million zero-emission cars on state roads by 2025. (Photo : Reuters)

Only 10 percent of the electric car chargers scheduled to be built in California have successfully been completed, The Associated Press reported.

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As the state looks to crack down on emissions, a New Jersey energy company was hired to build 1,040 charging stations by December but has only delivered on 110.

NRG Energy Inc. and California energy officials reached a unique legal settlement to build up the state's haphazard charging infrastructure. The agreement was intended to boost confidence in electric vehicles, which drivers tend to shy away from due to the limited driving range.

The disappointing number of new stations will likely renew concern over the settlement and whether NRG eVgo, the subsidiary responsible for building the stations, will be able fulfill the stipulations in its four-year term, according to the AP.

NRG and California's deal settled the state's claim that the energy company's plants overcharged for electricity during a power crisis in California 10 years ago.

The settlement stipulates that NRG spend $90.5 million installing at least 10,200 charging stations throughout the state by the end of 2016. Critics of the deal say Californians haven't been adequately compensated and point out that NRG will still make profit from the new stations.

"How is that a penalty? You're giving them more locations. And they're earning revenue from them," said John Gartner, research director of smart transportation at Navigant Research. "Really, really weird."

The state is banking on 1.5 million zero-emission cars by 2025 to reduce air pollution, but electric charging stations are key for the initiative to be successful.

Energy officials don't seem too concerned yet.

"You need to build in some elasticity in the timeframe because you don't know what's going to happen in an emerging market," said California Public Utilities Commission attorney Chris Clay. "We're optimistic that these guys will pull it off."

For drivers like Paul Scott, who sells the Nissan Leaf in Los Angeles, more charging stations are needed as soon as possible. Scott was recently driving home from San Diego one night when his battery ran low and he couldn't find a fast charger, which would have had his car running in 20 minutes. Instead, he had to wait an hour and a half to charge up enough to drive home.

"I gotta say, we need those chargers in the ground as fast as possible," Scott said. "I'm disappointed things haven't happened quicker."

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