Illustration for article titled Solar Charging May Be The Key To Shoring Up Americas Rural EV Infrastructure
Image: Electrify America

Electrify America and Envision Solar have joined forces in an attempt to bring electric car charging to routes through rural areas without steady and reliable access to a power grid. The initial test will involve thirty of these “EV ARC” units deployed throughout California’s Central, Coachella, and Imperial Valleys to help EV drivers traverse parts of the state that had previously been difficult or range-anxious to reach.

Each of these charging stations are equipped with solar-tracking 4.28 kW photovoltaic arrays and 32 kWh of on-board battery storage. With this system Electrify America says it can charge two vehicles at the same time with up to 6 kW charge speeds through the supplied EA level 2 chargers.

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In today’s climate of everyone talking level 3 DC fast chargers, that 6 kW doesn’t sound like much, but it’ll get something like a Nissan Leaf charged up from empty to the tippy top in 4-ish hours, as opposed to the 20 hours or so it takes plugged into a 110 outlet. And besides, it’s 100% renewable energy, which is all kinds of bitchin’.

The ultimate goal here is to prove that electric car technology can be an option for people who don’t live in the city. This system is said to be portable and able to set up in minutes. It’s a reliable source of power when grids go dark, and can quickly and easily expand the charging grid to places that have been left behind in the past.

About eight percent of new cars sales in California for 2019 were electric, but Envision Solar says that number dips to just 0.5 percent market penetration in rural areas. If this can help bridge the gap between charging at home and going for a longer distance drive, maybe it can pick up that percentage in the future by normalizing the technology for rural buyers.

According to information from Electrify America, these units are built to withstand up to 120 mile per hour winds and submerged in 9.5 feet of flood water.

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Perhaps most impressively, the whole thing, including the counterweight on the ground, is built to fit inside a standard parking spot. I could see something like this being truly useful for something like a festival out in the sticks. Say you’re going to a weekend music festival, you could easily go out to the show, plug in until you’re charged, then be full of juice when you’re ready to go home.

California has already set a goal of deploying a quarter of a million charging stations by 2025, and this may help make the goal more attainable. If Electrify America’s temporary test plan gets rolled out nationwide, that can only be a good thing. I look forward to more 100% emissions free charging options in the near future. [Update: This paragraph was changed to clarify that it was the state of California, not Electrify America, with a quarter of a million charging station goal.]

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While Electrify America hasn’t released any pricing information specific to these solar chargers, its costs in California for a level 2 charger range from about 18 cents per minute to 25 cents per minute. If you aren’t an “e pass +” member, charging up that aforementioned Nissan Leaf would cost you about $61 dollars, but chances are you won’t be rolling in on empty and won’t be charging up to 100.

Personally, I’d love to have one dropped off at my house. This would work super well here in Nevada where the sun shines all the time, and I have plenty of room for it. I’m not sure they’re deploying residential units quite yet, but color me interested when they are.

Jalopnik contributor with a love for everything sketchy and eclectic.

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