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Is This the Gas Station of the 21st Century?

If you drive an electric car, you’re probably familiar with ChargePoint. But even if you’re still driving an old-fashioned gas-guzzler, maybe it’s time you got to know the Campbell, Calif.-based startup.

ChargePoint is the largest operator of electric-vehicle charging stations, with some 12,000 publicly accessible chargers across 14 countries, including about 70 percent of all U.S. chargers. Right now, it’s a small market. But it won’t be for long if cars like the Tesla Model S and the suddenly resurgent Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf continue to catch on.

That’s why it’s noteworthy that ChargePoint is about to launch its next-generation charging station. The company plans to announce the new product, called the CT4000, later this week, but chief executive Pat Romano gave me an early look at it. At first glance, it’s similar to other AC electric-car chargers, albeit with a few bells and whistles, like an LCD screen for video advertisements. But it has an advantage over all the AC charging stations that have come before: It can charge two cars at once. That means, essentially, that the cost to install an electric-car charger will be cut in half. And that is good news for the entire industry.

For years, four main drawbacks have kept electric cars from competing with their gas-powered counterparts. One is their price. The second is their performance. The third is their limited range. And the fourth is the absence of a nationwide network of recharging stations. The first, price, is still an issue. But Tesla has solved the second, emphatically, and appears to be well on its way to solving the third. And companies like ChargePoint are quietly working on solving the fourth.

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