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California breaks ground on new electric car fast-charging corridor

If you drive an electric car, California is a great place to be. It’s the only U.S. state that actually requires manufacturers to sell zero-emission vehicles, and it offers generous incentives to get people to buy them. Next year, California electric car drivers will get one more perk.

Northern California will soon get a new network of DC fast-charging stations for electric cars. Called DRIVEtheARC, it will place 50 individual fast-charging stations at “more than 20 high-traffic locations” between Monterey and Lake Tahoe, according to a press release about the corridor’s groundbreaking. One of many charging-infrastructure projects in the state, it’s expected to be completed in March 2017. DC fast-charging stations can generally provide an 80 percent charge in around 30 minutes, although charge times can vary by car.

The network is the result of a partnership between the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (known as Go-Biz) and Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), a quasi-governmental entity that funds and manages technology-related R&D projects. The two groups are also working with Nissan, Kanematsu, and EVgo on the project.

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Kanematsu will develop a smartphone app specifically for DRIVEtheARC users, which will allow them to find stations and check if they are vacant. The app will also collect data that will be made available to users, but will also be analyzed by the project’s various stakeholders to better understand charging-station usage. Data will be collected and analyzed through September 2020.

Participation in DRIVEtheARC is the latest step in Nissan’s ongoing effort to expand the network of fast-charging stations for its Leaf electric car. It predicts 2,000 stations will be operation in the United States by next year, up from 250 in 2013. EVgo, one of the largest operators of public charging stations, will oversee installation of the DRIVEtheARC stations.

More charging stations will make life more convenient for electric car drivers, and potentially convince more consumers to switch over from internal-combustion cars. Fast-charging stations in particular help enable long road trips by allowing drivers to charge in a relatively short time, while still covering long distances on each charge.