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USA: EV Update, Part 2: Public Car Charging Grows 25%

Research follows the tracks and trips of electric vehicle drivers

SAN FRANCISCO — As the electric-vehicle (EV) market is poised for greater expansion, new research is helping illuminate the “fueling” behaviors of the EV driver.

San Francisco-based ECOtality Inc. oversees the Blink Network of residential, private and public smart-charging stations. The latter range from a Level 2 wall mount for parking garages to a Level 3 DC Fast Charger for sites such as gas stations. ECOtality’s retailer partners include BP, Best Buy, Ikea and Cracker Barrel.

In the third quarter of 2012, ECOtality saw a 25% jump in charging at public stations, just one of the many metrics tracked in its research initiative, The EV Project, which collects EV driver data in ECOtality’s Blink Network of more than 4,000 residential and 1,800 public Level 2 chargers, and 39 public Level 3 DC Fast Chargers. (For more, see www.theevproject.com/.)

ECOtality has nearly 7,800 charging units installed as part of the EV Project in 17 markets, including Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz.; Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; Oregon; Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville, Tenn.; Dallas/Ft. Worth and Houston; Washington state; and most recently, Chicago, Atlanta and Philadelphia.

Some interesting findings from latest quarter studied by The EV Project include:

At the public Level 2 chargers, users kept their vehicles connected for an average of 5 hours per charging event, with the peak being the noon hour during the weekday.
The percentage of home charging continues to decrease. For example, the typical Nissan Leaf owner charges up at home 80% of the time. In the third quarter 2012, this slipped to 70%.
The average mileage per quarter has grown to 2,275 miles, with drivers of the electric-gas hybrid Chevrolet Volt typically driving farther each day than 100% electric Nissan Leaf drivers. Interestingly, the average number of charge events was also slightly higher for Volt drivers, or 1.4 per day.

“Those types of customers, while they have the gas back-up generator, are still using the public infrastructure because they want to stay away from using [gasoline],” said Brian Koontz, director of strategic corporate development for ECOtality. “They want the comfort level of knowing they have additional fuel, but they don’t want to use it.”

EV drivers’ charging behavior depends on where and how they charge.

“For retailers and shopping centers, we’re seeing customers staying an hour, an hour and 15 minutes,” said Koontz. “They’re engaged in something called ‘trip-chaining.’ As they go between the office to a retail place to a grocery store to a restaurant, they are stopping for that amount of time to get that amount of range before they go to their primary fueling spot, which is home.”

At c-stores, Level 3 DC Fast Charge stations are the common setup.
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