Houston public car charging stations launch this week

Houston became the first major U.S. city to announce an electric vehicle charging network in November with the launch of NRG Energy subsidiary eVgo.

Now it’s finally getting the chargers to match the announcement.

A number of electric car owners signed up with the company for in-home charging stations in the past year, but this week will see the opening of the first of the network’s public charging stations.

The so-called “Freedom Station” will be located at the H-E-B Buffalo Market at the intersection of Buffalo Speedway and Bissonnet Street.

The station, which workers were installing today, is located on the former site of Buffalo Grille (actually right about where the coffee serving area was — I could almost smell the pepper bacon as I stood there).

Each station allows for two cars to charge simultaneously. They will have a 480-volt DC fast charger able to charge an EV at a  rate of 160 miles of range per hour (or about 30 miles in as little as 10 minutes) and a 240-volt Level 2 charger that can add up to 25 miles of  range in an hour.

Three additional Freedom Station sites will open within the next two weeks at  the Shops at Houston Center in downtown Houston (NRG’s local headquarters are near there, not-so-coincidentally), the Walgreens at 19710 Holzwarth Street and the Walgreens at 8942 West Sam Houston Parkway North.

There will be 25 Freedom Stations around Houston by the end of 2011 and 25 more in 2012 with additional stations  located on the grounds of retailers such as H-E-B, Best Buy, and other retailers.

52 Comments

  1. CaptSternn

    Can you imagine what would have happened if these sdtations had been opened a month ago when the power grid was near failure? They better hope next year is not as bad.

    #1
  2. Garrett

    I hope this isn’t going to go to waste like alot of technology!

    #2
  3. Gnrdude

    what a Joke. The electric Grid is already over stressed & they want us to All start Driving electric Thingamabobs that are going to Create a huge pollution hazard once the Batteries have Expended their life span.

    #3
  4. gunsnhorses

    No one says how much they will charge to use them.

    #4
  5. Ec C

    Does the thing use solar power or does it just hook up to the grid and run on gas or coal?

    #5
  6. California, home of the vocal (but seldom seen conserving) environmentalist movement, has seen COSTCO remove their EV charging stations. Why? No one used them. (link here: http://www.parkingtoday.com/blog/2011/08/whoops-charging-stations-removed/) But, that does NOT mean Houstonians won’t flock to them here, right? I mean, EVs are driven from the suburbs to downtown Houston every day, right? The HOV lanes are crowded with EVs, right? Build it and they will come? They will build it with our tax dollars, but no way they would invest their own hard-earned money! Did I say hard-earned? Was I refering to politicians? What the heck was I thinking?

    #6
  7. lab-handler

    Electric Energy, it’s Free !, it’s Free !, it’s ….. oh wait…..

    #7
  8. pt845

    So, if I was so unfortunate to have an electric car that was out of juice I would have to wait an hour to get a “full tank” or if I was unlucky enough to get the 240 charger I MIGHT get 30 more miles… And what fuel is being used to make this electricity? and will the fast charging shorten the life of the battery pack…

    #8
  9. Does this mean our breathing air will become less carcinogenic and that we’ll become less subjugated to the Middle East and Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela? At any rate, to answer Ec C’s question, there are, indeed, solar power systems on sale which enable folks to charge away from the grid. For more details:

    http://www.bizjournals.com/triad/news/2011/08/12/ford-dealerships-to-offer-solar-panels.html?ana=yfcpc

    and more generally:

    http://www.electricandhybridcars.com

    #9
  10. Greg Jones

    Oh, only 30 minutes to charge up… That should be a fun wait.

    #10
  11. bkbirge

    Does the quickie mart at the Freedom station sell Freedom Fries?

    #11
  12. JB

    Great, so if I live in Katy and just happen to be driving by I can charge. How long will I be there? 15 minutes, 30 minutes? Do you have to be buying something nearby to keep the spot for more than 1 hour? What if I don’t have an hour buy need juice?

    #12
  13. olddispatcher

    Well, so much for ‘Common Sense Solutions’. Everybody says we need them, but when they get here all everyone says is ‘It will never work’.

    This reminds me of my University days. I had a car with a 365 Hp engine that was one of the biggest you could buy at the time. I drove it from my house to the campus. There I took my bike out of the trunk and used it to get around. It was a good solution for me. It would have been a bad solution for about 99.99999% of the folks in the town.

    This will also be a good solution for a few people and I would bet that few will grow to many. Just because it is not a good solution for you at this time is it correct to be against it?

    And some charging station were put in and then taken out? WOW! Surely that is the end of the world as we know it or it is a decision to move the stations from somewhere that they are not being used to somewhere that they are. These charging stations are going to become like ATM’s; sometimes they don’t get used and they are taken out, so the days of the ATM are over?

    Luddites.

    #13
  14. Fervor

    True — what’s the cost?

    And I guess they’ll have free WIFI, tv, coffee and other amenities to appease the customers while they wait — kinda like some of the full service car washes??

    #14
  15. James

    At the end of the day it’s a Coal fired car. Or natural gas or anything but pure electric. Folks, we’re going to have to start considering nuclear power if this is going to accomplish what they say it is.

    #15
  16. Rice

    Wow.. Once again, a whole lot of ignorance on a supposedly “informed” energy blog.

    Ec C – No solar, it’s connected to the grid.

    NRG owns 2 Retail Electric Providers that participate in ERCOT today, Reliant and Green Mountain. eVgo will operate like a REP. You’ll be charged a competitive rate per kWh consumed at the charging station. But you’ll probably have to start an account with eVgo.

    Further, NRG, as a major fleet operator of power plants in ERCOT, was certainly aware of the grid stress in August. In a deregulated consumer market (like telecoms, airlines, etc.) it is the responsibility of the consumer to make purchasing choices. As supply/demand gets tight, prices increase. So it probably would have been a bad idea to charge your car at 4 p.m. in late August UNLESS you had signed a Fixed Rate contract with eVgo, which places market risk on the REP rather than the consumer.

    If you live in Houston, you should be familiar with these basic market principles by now. The market structure has been in place for over a decade. Yes, we have issues on the grid we’ll need to solve. We need more power plants. We need batteries/storage systems. But we also need better insight into the patterns and locations of load consuming entities. Smart meters is a good step. Demand response is another.

    But to ignore the potential of EV’s just because they’re “new” and “different” to me frowns on the spirit of entrepreneurship, which built this city firstly, and is what our national economy is lacking right now secondly.

    Let the market work. NRG is taking a risk. Let it fail on its own merits. And if it’s a risk that could potentially decrease pollution and decrease our dependence of imported fossil fuels, why would you complain?

    #16
  17. Bill in Houston

    I doubt this station will get used after the first week, even though it will be located in the most pretentious left-wing part of town.

    @ Rice

    Electrics are a fad. Nothing more and nothing less. The market WILL work. So far it has been saying, “meh” even in LA-LA land.

    #17
  18. Cecil

    You didn’t mention how much it costs.

    #18
  19. Cosmop

    As long as NRG is taking the business risk to succeed or fail and not the government footing the bill, than competition in the market place is a great for everyone.

    #19
  20. Ec C

    So it’s connected to a grid that uses gas and coal for the most part. I see.

    So instead of filling up with gas and going 500 miles, I can now charge a car off of coal and gas based electricity and go 100 miles transferring the pollution somewhere else and putting stress on the grid if I need to charge it at 4 in the afternoon to get home that night..

    Here is an idea. How about just using regular gas, natural gas, or propane even instead? We do have enough natural gas to last 100 years or more. Why use natural gas to make electricity to power cars?

    At least put solar panels on the roof of the thing so the unicorn, umm…prius drivers can say they are helping the environment some.

    #20
  21. JamesP

    There is a charging station at the new Whole Foods on Waugh. I saw two different EV in the parking spot (one when I entered and a different one when I left). I didn’t see anyone charging, but I was surprised that two EVs would be at the store in the same hour.

    As far as twiddling your thumbs when your car is charging, did you notice that these stations were at destinations, not gas stations. They were located at HEB and Walgreens. If you need to shop or have a prescription filled your are going to be in the store for at least 20 minutes. That would be enough time to top off the batteries.

    You guys would complain about a million dollars. If it bothers you so much don’t drive an EV. Problem solved.

    #21
  22. Jp

    JamesP wrote”

    “You guys would complain about a million dollars. If it bothers you so much don’t drive an EV.”
    ———-
    Ok. I won’t. But we still nead coal to run the lights and a/c

    #22
  23. olddispatcher

    There are currently over 20,000 people on a waiting list to buy a Nissan Leaf.

    I wish I had a ‘product failure’ like that to sell.

    #23
  24. olddispatcher

    I agree with JamesP. If you don’t want to buy an electric car then don’t. It will leave more of them for those that do.

    One the homes I have is in a neighborhood full of old folks and it is close to a Country Club. Golf carts are everywhere, and everyone that has one used them to run all over the area to go shopping and what-not. Someone asked me when I was going to get one and I told them I didn’t play golf. Turn out they don’t either, but they love diving their electric cart.

    They are also on the list for a Nissan Leaf and can’t wait for it to show up.

    #24
  25. sharky

    Ec C has certainly earned the coveted “Slack-jawed Dullard of the Day” award. If anyone would like to take a shot at being more misinformed and ill of intent, please take a shot at it. Otherwise, as more rational minds tend to prevail- even here in Hee Haw country- the benefits/detriments of electric vehicles will indeed be determined by the alleged “market”. Unfortunately, there is no real “free market” as EVERYTHING is subsidized in some manner or fashion. And anyone who truly believes that the oil industry does not move its hands at the highest level of governmental enterprise is deluding themselves and/or listening to too much AM radio.

    #25
  26. Drivealeaf

    I often drive from the highway 6 area to downtown and back in my (totally electric) ev. I try not to speed…don’t want to talk to Houston’s finest! I can beat most cars away from a standing start…I do not have gears!

    The charging stations will be a welcome addition…won’t be used every day by myself, but sometimes it would be good. I think that spending 20 minutes in an HEB or Walgreens will be fine…certainly won’t be on a daily basis. I will take the gas vehicle for the drive to San Antonio though…….and yes can power electricity from US natural gas or by saving electricity by better insulation of our houses….all US ….non of that money to the Mid -East….perhaps we can do this for our troops?

    #26
  27. Ec C

    The only dullard of the day here is you because you think you know more than the rest of us when really you don’t know a thing. Instead of answering my questions, you result to a personal attack. That’s real class there sharky.

    #27
  28. Drivealeaf

    Its not that electric cars require solar or gas or coal to power them…it is that the e car opens up any possibility. Could even use oil to generate electricity!…or solar…but we can also save an awful lot of electricity by insulating our houses etc…and then use this to power the car

    It would be good to use electric cars around town…gas or diesel cars for long distance.

    It is easy to power the car after 8 pm…..and come October, not an issue for the grid down here.

    Natural gas is an alternative…would have to develop gas stations…..has been done elsewhere where for instance all taxis run on natural gas…but will take a change.

    But…it would be good not to be dependent on the middle east (and venezeula)

    #28
  29. Bob

    The stuff about stressing the grid is silly. 25 charging stations will hardly stress the grid. And the home chargers people have are used predominantly at night when demand is low. And even if these cars are charged on electicity that is generated from 100% coal (which is not even close to the case in Texas), they’d still produce fewer emissions and a much smaller carbon footprint than a gas fired engine because it is almost twice as efficient. Much of an internal combustion engine’s energy is wasted as heat.

    #29
  30. Paul

    Great. Give the rights for electric and natural gas stations to Walmart.

    #30
  31. Sterling Minor

    Some of this was facts, and interesting. Some of this was pooh-poohing, and not interesting at all.

    #31
  32. ess

    it is insane to see so many folks vehemently against an emerging technology that at worst, will never affect their lives and at best might significantly reduce our economy’s dependence on foreign energy sources.

    of course evs have a way to go before they can truly become affordable to masses and of course the grid will need significant improvements. no one ever said this change was happening overnight (it isn’t) and no one is forcing any of you to go along with any of it. so you can all pull the panties out of your cracks and RELAX.

    if you think your perspective will easily win out in this situation, then why are you so damn WORRIED about it?

    whoever mentioned luddites nailed it.

    #32
  33. Elowe

    Actually electric cars are
    Less effecient than comparable 25+ mpg sedans. The best internal combustion engines are about 30 to 40 % efficient where btus are converted into motion.

    The best fossil fuel powered electric plant even with cogeneration will not surpass 55% efficiency where btus are converted to electricity. Then you factor in 12-15% transmission losses across the grid system. Then you factor in 20% losses to the battery system. All told, the best you could hope for is the same efficiency, but emissions due to manufacture and power generation are greater for the electric vehicle.

    The real miser would be driving a natural gas fired hybrid.

    #33
  34. Michael

    I would be more than happy to get an electric vehicle but my truck is still running fine and I don’t get a new vehicle until my current one doesnt run anymore. Also it needs to be a truck and have enough power to run atleast 150 miles a day which is my commute.

    #34
  35. David

    Not one reporter has talked about how much this is going to cast per “fill up”. Is this some sort of secret and the electric companies have pressured the reporters not to discuss it?

    I am as environmentally conscious as I can be and still live in Houston. (Life is a set of compromises! lol) Regardless, what most most people don’t realize is that here in Houston electric cars are essentially coal driven. Yes, some power in Houston does derive from wind and nuclear sources, but most of what drives Houston derives from coal. Yes, coal.

    So, I put this question to some genius out there to solve: How much coal, by weight, needs to be burned to produce the power for one full charge of an typical electric car?

    I suppose it is an elegant and convenient solution to Houston’s pollution problems. The pollution is just moved from Houston’s auto tailpipes to a smokestack some distance from Houston. It just becomes someone else’s problem.

    Yeah, that’s the ticket! :)

    #35
  36. EV’s what a waste. I hope that no tax dollars went into this project, but knowing how irresponsible and corrupt the politicians are today my guess is we all just paid for another red herring.

    #36
  37. Terry B

    Are they going to serve food and drinks while they wait for the charge ?????

    #37
  38. Herb Smith

    This is ridiculous. Why didn’t they support natural gas years ago and we could have already cut pollution and foreign oil imports in half? Typical, fuzzy thinking fromt he leftist political “elite”.

    #38
  39. Sammie Jo

    at the same time that Costco removed their charging stations because for two years, no one was using them.
    I fail to see how electric cars are going to reduce our dependance on oil. How do you think electricity is powered? Gas & oil.
    Most people don’t have time to waste sitting around with their car plugged in so they can get home.
    I will still buy gas fueled vehicles.

    #39
  40. Dave

    30 miles for 10 minutes. Not bad. The average amount of time a person spends at a convenient store when making a multi-purchase of gas and and additional item is 8.5 minutes (based on an average of 629 observations).

    I find it pretty funny how quick people are to jump on bashing something that they don’t own. I have 3 neighbors with electric cars and spent a lot of time waiting to see how things work out for them. They all still have their old car but 98% of the time they don’t use them.

    I have 3 vehicles (jeep, F350, and sedan). I’m keeping the F350 pickup but getting rid of the other 2. I’m not a tree hugger and could car less how much crap we put in the air. Nobody is going to beat big business and they and the government aren’t every going to stop screwing us. But I’m happy to to crank up my middle finger at the oil companies as I drive past the gas station. I’ll also be happy to limit the number of ways a dealership can screw me for support services for my cooling system, my exhaust system, my oil systems … and all the extra pumps and moving parts.

    I hope I crash the power grid. Maybe you folks will learn to not be so wasteful.

    #40
  41. ntangle

    Elowe says: “Actually electric cars are Less effecient than comparable 25+ mpg sedans. The best internal combustion engines are about 30 to 40 % efficient where btus are converted into motion….The real miser would be driving a natural gas fired hybrid.”
    ————-
    “Actually” quite wrong. Most GASOLINE engines PEAK at about 20% or 25% efficiency. The best ICE’s are certain DIESELS, which can get efficiencies well into the 30′s only when they’re operated at the PEAK of their efficiency curve, i.e. at their optimum hwy speed. No ICE has as broad of an efficiency curve and torque curve throughout its RPM range as an electric motor, so they AVG less. (Anybody knows that cars in traffic use a range of RPM, which is one reason city mileage is less than hwy with ICE’s). The other, more obvious reason is that they’re frequently accelerating to recover the energy lost by stopping. EV’s and hybrids recover most of that energy via regenerative braking.

    According to sources like the EIA, electrical grid T&D losses average about 8%. So, using an electrical source like a modern gas fired turbine, the overall eff. of an EV is over 2 X a gasoline car of the same weight. Which is why their mpg-e figures are in the 100 ballpark.

    NG piston engines aren’t as efficient as diesel, but can exceed gasoline. NG is cheaper than either and cleaner, and potentially avoids some of the energy lost by refining & long transportation. Unfortunately, with its lower energy density CNG gives much less range (miles per unit volume). (Also one of the 2 major drawbacks of existing EV batteries…range. The other being initial cost).

    #41
  42. Rick

    What happens when Iran explodes an EMP in our atmosphere? Won’t they be unuable. Will the F.S.’s be B.S.?

    #42
  43. bg

    Despite what the putz Sharky states, EVs are strictly a displacement tool for emissions. The early EV (zero emission) push by CARB was directed at moving vehicle emission sources out of the LA smog basin. Advances in lower emissions on all vehicles and fleets of LNG buses have accomplished the same thing. EVs are a loser for the car companies (without subsidies) and a joke on the taxpayers. They have specific short distance applications, but most commutes in urban areas out range them. Even the Chevy Volt loses to fueled vehicles after 60 miles. LNG vehicles will be the wave, surf it or drown.

    #43
  44. John Bowden

    Now this is interesting. An analysis of writing styles of this comment sections shows that 14 of the entries were written by the same person. It looks like someone out there has an agenda.

    #44
  45. Al

    “What happens when Iran explodes an EMP in our atmosphere? Won’t they be unuable.”

    Not much more unusable than the internal-combustion vehicles that have all been increasingly electronic/computer-controlled for about the past three decades would be.

    #45
  46. ntangle

    What happens when Iran explodes an EMP in our atmosphere? Won’t they be unuable. Will the F.S.’s be B.S.?
    —————
    What happens when your head explodes from such cerebral risk assessment?

    #46
  47. Greg

    Just wait to see how bad rush hour is with a bunch of EVs stalled out from DOA batteries.

    #47
  48. Golyadkin

    EvGO charges a flat monthly rate to charge your car, regardless of the amount of power you use. $89/month for unlimited charging, and that includes the installation of a charger at your home, and reimbursement for non-peak energy usage from your home charger. Meaning if you only charge at home at night, and use these stations, your fuel costs will be a constant $89/month.

    #48
  49. We’re excited to see so many of you talking about electric vehicles. However, we have noticed some errors and misconceptions in the comments about EVs and eVgo charging. Here’s some clarification:

    ·eVgo Freedom Station sites use renewable electricity. Even when charged with the standard Texas mix of coal, gas, nuclear and wind, EVs are cleaner than traditional gas cars.

    ·eVgo is a charging service with a fixed rate monthly plan that cost $49 per month for a home charger or $89 per month for unlimited access to the public chargers and off peak charging at home.

    ·eVgo is not a Retail Electricity Provider (REP). We have REP partners who provide the electricity for the Freedom Station sites (currently Reliant, Green Mountain and TXU).

    ·We expect most charging to be done at night in the home with the public charging available as needed. CenterPoint has analyzed the impact of EVs on the grid and determined that the impacts from EVs are likely to be relatively minimal within the next decade, with additional peak load growing by no more than 5 percent.

    ·Costco has removed their chargers but the chargers were installed when EVs were few and far between. We are setting up these stations as EV adoption is ramping up.

    ·EV batteries are warranted for 8 years and 100,000 miles—fast charging is not an issue

    ·By locating charging stations at popular retailers, you can charge while you shop (or access wifi, tv, coffee, and other amenities available through our retail partners). We cannot make recharging a car as fast as a gas fueling (yet) but we can make the charging a much better use of your time.

    If in the future you have any questions, email us at support@evgonetwork.com and we’d be glad to respond.

    #49
  50. Elowe

    An ev is not twice as efficient as a comparably sized internal combustion powered car. You dont give an efficiency number but your conclusion overstates gas turbine powered electric generation efficiency, and negate the fact the majority of electricity is coal fired and gas turbine is mostly reserve. Your transmission loss number is correct for 60f and steady state. But when temps reach 90f losses start increasing to over 18% depending on the grid. Then you simply ignore battery loss altogether. As for the rest of your conversation it sounds like you are agreeing that natural gas is superior to ev. In emissions, cost, and range.

    #50
  51. ntangle

    Elowe: Are you just making this stuff up? T&D losses aren’t directly affected by ambient T. The grid is predominantly “steady state” (as opposed to transient or surge conditions) the vast majority of the time. Changes in load can temporarily affect the power factor (kW vs. kVARs). But when it’s substantial, it’s remedied ASAP as it represents big money to the providers.

    Of course large CNG vehicles are cheaper initially than EV. Personal vehicle conversions…maybe, maybe not…like L-Ion batteries, NG tanks are expensive and have less capacity than LPG tanks. CNG requires much higher pressure, well over 2000 psig rather than 150. With piston engines, it has the same inherent efficiency limitations as gasoline & diesel, although it is higher octane and does permit uniform mixing.

    As I said many times, piston engines are inherently less efficient than steam turbines or gas turbines and especially combined cycle turbines. The following is an overall calculation, using turbine eff., less T&D losses, times electric motor eff, less battery losses. Feeling generous, I’m allowing your high end estimate of battery losses of 20%:

    55% * (100% – 8%) * 90% *.(100% – 80%) = 36.4% for EV efficiency across its operating range.
    A modern gasoline engine in perfect tune operated ONLY at its optimum RPM & torque load = 25%
    A modern diesel engine operated ONLY at its optimum RPM & torque load = 35%

    Don’t forget that EV’s waste no energy idling, and recover most of the energy that’s otherwise wasted by ICE’s slowing down or stopping. So their advantage in city traffic would be much greater than indicated above. But it is indicated by their EPA mileage estimates in the 100 mpg-e ballpark. Don’t forget there are also large refining & T&D losses with petroleum derivatives and somewhat less so with NG.

    #51
  52. Put in more CNG stations and make a REAL difference. I commute and switched to bi-fuel CNG and cut my fuel bill in more than half. You can look into it at http://www.skycng.com. They are reliable info, no sales.

    #52