Charging Stations for Electric Cars

Car charging stations are an integral and sometimes controversial part of the electric vehicle revolution that many see happening for the world's future transportation needs. Interestingly, the argument is not over the charging points themselves (except maybe for some government grants and giveaways that supply them), but over whether they are putting the cart before the horse in terms of need.

When we talked about Electric Car Charging, we discussed the fact that most new car buyers who buy an EV often are surprised to learn that the charging station for their home will cost extra. What about when they aren't at home and need to charge?

Those charging stations are the point we'll cover today.

How Charging Stations Work

Public charging stations usually work in one of two ways: they are either free of charge - such as those some businesses will put in to attract customers and improve their "green" image. Others require payment and are usually either membership-driven or ask for a credit card - or both.

In the latter case, the driver parks in the stall at the charger, activates the charger through a club card, membership card, debit or credit card, or another means. They then plug in their vehicle and sometimes can select how much to spend or how much to take on in electricity. Most of the time, though, the system just charges until the car is "full" and then shuts itself off.

These charging points are convenient for those who own plug-in electrics (hybrids or battery) and are springing up in populous areas around the country.

Who Makes These Charging Stations?

The charging stations are made by many companies, but the primary suppliers found in North America are Coulomb Technologies, based in California and whose ChargePoint stations began appearing last year and have proliferated quickly; and Better Place based in Israel, whose battery swapping and charge stations have also been appearing in the U.S.

What Is the Controversy?

The controversy over these charging stations is about, to use an old euphemism, putting the cart before the horse. The low number of electric vehicles being driven, some say, does not justify the large number of government grants and taxpayer outlays funding these mostly-unused charging points.

Proponents argue, however, that if the charging stations aren't there, consumers are less likely to buy an EV because the infrastructure is not in place to make them useful.

In either case, the charging points are being built. Whether or not this will fuel higher purchases of EVs over conventional vehicles is still unknown.

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