Pacific Coast Sun Trail may lessen California EV range anxiety

By Bill Holloway

A planned network of electric vehicle charging stations along the California coast, from Eureka to Malibu, will make trips to scenic coastal areas more feasible for EV owners. As reported by the Press Democrat, Richard Sachen, the entrepreneur behind the plan, refers to it as the “Pacific Coast Sun Trail” and so far has raised most of his capital for the stations through crowdfunding websites such as Gust and Indiegogo.

Sachen’s company, Sunspeed Enterprises, has built its first charging station in Point Reyes and claims it has enough capital right now to install the next three. Eventually he hopes to have stations installed every 20 miles or so. Each station, which will be open 24/7, will have Level 2 and Level 3 chargers that are compatible with multiple connector types and powered with 100% renewable energy. According to Plug In America, Level 2 charging stations can provide vehicles with up to 70 miles of range per hour of charge, while a Level 3 station can provide up to 240 miles of range per hour of charge. Vehicles, however, are limited by their onboard technology; for example, the first model-year Nissan Leaf can only get about 12 miles of range per hour from a Level 2 station. Because of the significantly longer time it takes to charge an EV relative to fueling times for internal combustion vehicles, Sachen is locating his stations at destination sites that offer drivers something to do while their vehicles charge.

While EV owners can charge their vehicles at home, and there are an increasing number of charging stations available, many offer only the slow-charging Level 1, which is equivalent to a regular wall outlet. Facilities and the hours of availability, number of vehicles that can be charged simultaneously, and applicable fees vary widely among public charging stations. High speed (Level 3) charging stations remain largely confined to metropolitan areas.

Range anxiety—the fear that EVs will run out of power between charging stations—is one of the key issues preventing more people from buying EVs and makes owners reluctant to take excursions to more rural areas. Regularly-spaced, easy-to-use charging stations featuring high-speed chargers would open up the California coast to EV owners and, with the increased availability and visibility of charging facilities outside of urban areas, may help to alleviate the range anxiety of potential EV buyers.

Sachen hopes to have his string of charging stations up and running within two years.

Bill Holloway is a Transportation Policy Analyst at SSTI.