Range anxiety -- the fear that if you drive too far from home you'll get stranded with a dead battery -- still holds many drivers back from making the leap into an electric car. And that makes car companies anxious in their own right. So Volkswagen and BMW are trying to coax cautious buyers down the road to ownership by paving the way with new charging stations.
The carmakers announced they are teaming up with ChargePoint, the largest electric vehicle charging network, to install 100 express charging stations on two major interstates on either coast.
The stations will be installed about 50 miles apart on I-95 between Boston and Washington D.C. and on I-5 between Portland, Oregon and San Diego. They'll be located alongside restaurants, shopping centers and rest stops.
The first charging station has already been built in San Diego County and the remaining 100 should be finished by the end of the year. The companies plan to expand from there.
"A robust network of conveniently located DC Fast charging stations will go a long way toward increasing electric vehicle adoption and making electric vehicle ownership even more enjoyable," said Robert Healey, Head of EV Infrastructure at BMW of North America. "The express charging corridors are another important step in the development of the U.S. e-mobility infrastructure that makes longer distance travel a real option for consumers."
That's the hope.
The U.S. Department of Energy lists nearly 9,000 electric charging stations spattered around the country, concentrated especially in California and up and down the Atlantic. But it's not enough. A 2014 study from the research firm PlugInsights said the dearth of outlets inhibits "the value, utility and sales potential" of medium range electrical vehicles.
BMW and Volkswagen are not the first automakers to invest in ways to improve and expand charging opportunities. Tesla has installed 358 solar-powered charging stations across the country and is planning to expand that by a lot over the next two years.
Governments have also helped. San Diego announced it would install 117 stations and Tucson, Arizona has declared itself to be an "Electric Vehicle Friendly Community," having installed 100 of its own.
Will another 50 stations on each coast be enough to reach a tipping point for buyers? For what it's worth, the ChargePoint stations will be compatible with all electric vehicles -- not just the ones BMW and Volkswagen want to sell you.