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How To Find Electric Car Charging Stations--And Fast!

EV charging station

So you're driving down the highway in your brand new Nissan Leaf EV, thinking about how you're so environmentally responsible, and all of a sudden you realize that you might run out of power before reaching your destination. This scenario is still a rare one, granted, but gas prices are shooting up (just wait until $6 per gallon gas in the U.S., coming to a station near you this summer). It will become more even more common as people push their electric charges to the limit to avoid shelling out for gas. Don't panic—a handful of companies are stepping up to provide smartphone-ready charge station maps that can help when you're in a fix.


Newly crowned clean energy king Google announced this week that it is teaming up with the DOE to provide an online network of every U.S. charge station in existence—using Google Maps, naturally. The service isn't ready yet, but the DOE has a map of over 600 EV charging stations available here. Eventually, this Google/DOE partnership will serve as the primary EV charging station data source for GPS and mapping systems (like the one that may be in your car already). Here is what they currently offer:


Coulomb's ChargePoint app locates EV charging stations in the U.S, Europe, and Australia—but only for Coulomb-branded charge stations. The upside is that Coulomb is currently the world's largest charging station network.


Ecotality's Blink app displays nearby charging stations—but again, only for Ecotality-branded stations. Blink's map is "coming soon."


For now, the definitive charging station guide in the U.S. is the PlugShare app, which both displays a list of nearby public charging stations and allows users to share their own electric outlets and search for charge spots located inside or outside other people's garages. So far, PlugShare has 2,500 outlets listed, including 1,000 from users' homes. In comparison, the Google/DOE map shows private charge stations housed in commercial and government locations (some of which aren't accessible to the public), but not inside people's garages. Because who really wants their home address listed on a Google Maps layer for all to see?

[Photo by portland general]

Reach Ariel Schwartz via Twitter or email.

Related: The Electric Vehicle Acceptance Tipping Point: $5-A-Gallon Gas