Google Maps Now Showing Public EV Charging StationsBy (Display Name not set) March 14, 2011
By Danny King, Contributor
California start-up Xatori Inc.'s new "PlugShare" mobile app, which will include private homes in its list of available electric-vehicle charging stations, will appeal to those ready to depend largely on the kindness of strangers.
For realists - or those without the smart phones and pads mobileapps are designed for - there's always Google.
The search-engine giant has added a feature to its Google Maps that allows drivers to enter a city or zip code and get nearby publicly accessible electric-car charging stations.
Users can simply type in "EV charging station near (insert a city or zip code)"and get a points-on-a-map list of stations offered by municipalities or private businesses like gas stations, parking lots, hotels and other retailers.
Xatori, which uses GoogleMaps to provide directions to its listed charging spots, provides much of the same information, but differentiates itself by including voluntary listings from individuals and businesses willing to share a charger, or even a 120-volt wall plug, with EV drivers in need of some juice.
Google is using data from the U.S. Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to power its list and will said on its blog last week that it will add more points as the NREL's GeoEVSE Forum adds stations to its database.
The Energy Department's Alternative Fuels & Advanced Vehicles Data Center as of Monday listed 703 publically-accessible electric-vehicle charging stations, including about 440 in California.
A Google Maps search in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles on Monday spit out two stations, while a search near San Franciscos North Beach generated eight locations. Ask for stations near New York City and you get eight in Manhattan and several more on Staten Island.
The ability for drivers of battery-electric and, to a lesser extent, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, to find publically accessible charging stations is becoming more topical as potential electric-drive customers weigh the advantages of not having to pay for progressively more expensive gas with the prospect of being stranded because they've run out of juice and can't find a place to recharge.
Last year, Pike Research estimated that North American sales of PHEVs and BEVs will surge to about 300,000 units in 2015 from about 50,000 this year.
Companies like closely-held Coulomb Technologies are trying to address this issue. Coulomb last June received a $37 million contract from the U.S. Energy Dept. to deploy 4,600 electric-vehicle charging stations across the U.S. by the end of 2011 through a partnership with GM, Ford and Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler, marking a joint effort to make electric vehicles more affordable and easier to recharge.
The ChargePoint America program, in which 2,600 of the stations will be in public locations, is being rolled out in nine U.S. regions, including the Los Angeles, Detroit and Austin, Texas, in addition to the Bay Area and Washington D.C. Coulomb has its own mobile-phone application that locates nearby stations. Several other national and regional charger programs also are underway, including one, the EV Project, run by ECOtality, that is funded for installation of almost 15,000 home and commercial stations.
Meanwhile, Xatori is launching its PlugShare app, a community-driven mobile application that lets users find nearby electric car charging spots including those in the homes of other plug-in car owners who are willing to share a 120-volt wall-plug or a 240-volt Level 2 home charging station with a fellow traveler who's about to run out of juice and needs a quick hit.
PlugShare is available now for iPhones, iPads and the iPod Touch, and an Android version is in development.