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Terrible Herbst service stations offer gasoline, diesel, electricity

Terrible Herbst service stations and convenience stores are now offering DC fast charge stations at a dozen strategic locations in the Las Vegas Valley to complement traditional gasoline and diesel fuel pumps.

Terrible’s service stations have teamed with Nissan, BMW, GoSpace and NRG eVgo to host DC fast charge stations that can dispense a powerful stream of electrons to refuel a Nissan Leaf or BMW i3 electric car in less than half an hour.

“We have a lot of service station locations in town and were originally approached by this group to encourage the use of electric cars in the Las Vegas Valley,” said Matt Osa, operations manager at Terrible Herbst. “We saw an opportunity to have these drivers plug in and use our convenience stores while they are waiting to recharge.”

A map of the 12 Freedom Stations can be found at the NRG eVgo website, https://www.nrgevgo.com/charging-locations, after zooming in on the Las Vegas area.

Each charging session on a local NRG eVgo Freedom Station costs $5.95 with a standard credit card, in addition to an incremental cost of 20 cents per minute for the fast charge service. Thirty minutes of charge time would cost a total of $11.95 to provide a new 2016 Nissan Leaf model SV or SL with a range of about 107 miles. The BMW i3, as well as older models of the Nissan Leaf, could recharge their battery packs in just 20 minutes for a range of about 80 miles at a total cost of $9.95.

Although more expensive than 4 gallons of gasoline to travel the same distance, the fast charging time is 10 times quicker than a traditional SAE J1772 AC Level 2 charging station, that would take about five hours to recharge the same vehicles. The Terrible Herbst stations also are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For electric car owners living in an apartment, condominium or multifamily dwelling where their vehicle cannot be plugged in overnight to recharge, the NRG eVgo stations make refueling an electric car as easy and convenient as refueling a gasoline vehicle.

In the automotive industry, there are three competing DC fast charge technology standards that have been adopted by different manufacturers to dispense more than 100 amps of direct current at 400 volts DC.

Each DC fast charge station must be connected to an industrial grid power source that normally provides three phases of alternating current at 480 volts from utility grid power lines. Polyphase AC current is converted to DC current inside the DC fast charge station before it is sent through the output power connector to the electric car charging port.

High-voltage DC power can be more quickly transferred to the DC battery pack inside each electric vehicle.

Tesla Motors owns and administers its proprietary SuperCharger network of charging stations across the country and around the world that can refuel a Tesla Motors vehicle battery pack to more than 200 miles of range in just one hour. Access to the electricity at SuperCharger stations for Tesla Model S and Model X owners is included in the purchase price, provided at no cost for the lifetime of their purchased vehicle. Buyers of the next-generation Tesla Model 3 mass-market electric car may have to pay for SuperCharger access as a tradeoff for a more affordable vehicle.

In Japan, the Tokyo Electric Power Co., or TEPCO, developed a CHAdeMO protocol and connector plug for DC fast charging more than five years ago that is an accepted industry standard in Asia and the U.S.

A Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-MiEV or Kia Soul EV will have a separate CHAdeMO DC fast charge connector port on the car, in addition to the standard SAE J1772 AC connector required on all cars sold into the U.S. market.

SAE International, the standards body that developed the SAE J1772 AC protocol and power connector used around the world, has created its own version of a DC fast charge standard by adding two big connector pins to its existing five-pin connector standard. The new DC fast charge protocol proposed by SAE International is known as the Combined Charging System, or “SAE Combo.”

Automotive manufacturers in the U.S. and Europe have voted to adopt this standard worldwide, actively competing against the established Japanese CHAdeMO standard. Look for this new DC Combo standard connector port on the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt electric car, as well as the BMW i3. The Chevrolet Bolt will have a larger battery pack, with a range of more than 200 miles, that can be refilled by a DC Fast Charge station in about an hour.

SAE International believes this new standard to be more efficient, as only one connector is required to accept Level 1 and Level 2 AC sources, as well as a Level 3 DC fast charge source.

NRG eVgo DC fast charge stations comply with both CHAdeMO and SAE Combo industry standards by providing both types of connectors. The matching connector is selected by the EV owner when initiating a charging session. Tesla Motors vehicle owners can purchase an optional $200 adapter that interfaces with the CHAdeMO plug connector standard from each Freedom Station as well.

At present, most electric car owners recharge their cars more slowly in a garage overnight by using a standard SAE J1772 AC Level 1 adapter cable that comes with both the Nissan Leaf or BMW i3. Recharging time is about 10 hours, or 20 times as long as a DC fast charge station, dispensing 15 amps of alternating current at 110 volts. The alternating current is converted to direct current onboard the vehicle to recharge the DC battery pack.

The AC Level 1 charging technology would cost less than $3 in household electricity consumption to travel more than 80 miles compared with the NRG eVgo cost of $9.95.

Many SAE J1772 AC Level 2 public charging stations in Southern Nevada offer electricity at no cost, as part of a shared investment program funded by NV Energy. The program was initiated by the utility in 2012 to build out electric car charging station infrastructure.

Host sites such as MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment received rebates from NV Energy for the installation of ChargePoint charging stations along the Strip, in exchange for an agreement to provide electricity at no cost for five years. There is still one year left on that program, but after that time the host site can elect to add a price for each charging session.

Many of the charging stations at Strip resorts are located in valet parking garages, but many more public car charging sites can be found in the local area through mapping services like Plugshare.com and ChargePoint.com.

Most electric cars also have onboard GPS services on their instrument panels that show where the nearest available charging stations are located while driving to a destination. Nissan ConnectEV maps these sites locally, while BMW uses the ChargePoint database.

Nissan has also initiated a No Charge to Charge program that bundles Nissan Leaf sales with the NRG eVgo network. Purchase a Nissan Leaf model S, SV or SL with the DC fast charge package and Nissan will provide an E-Z charge card that entitles the owner to two years worth of free DC fast charge system access.

BMW is also offering a similar Charge Now DC Fast program that entitles a BMW i3 owner to daily 30-minute sessions on the NRG eVgo network of DC fast chargers for two years.

While test-driving a new 2016 Nissan Leaf SL this month, I pulled up to a Terrible’s station on the corner of Tropicana Avenue and Rainbow Boulevard, then parked in the dedicated EV lane for an NRG eVgo station. A large tanker fuel truck nearby was dispensing gasoline into the underground storage tanks for the station pumps.

I slid my credit card into the reader port and selected the CHAdeMO connector, then plugged it into the charge port on the front of the Nissan SL. Electrons started flowing from the DC fast charge station that was connected to a transformer and transmission line from the NV Energy utility grid. The charge station display showed 93 amps being dispensed at about 393 volts DC as the lithium-ion battery cells in the Nissan Leaf were being replenished.

After refueling was completed, the NRG eVgo station sent a text message to my cellphone with the total purchase price that was deducted from my debit card account.

It may be many years before electric cars with batteries and motors displace traditional gasoline fuel tanks and internal combustion engines for consumer driving requirements, if at all.

However, that one charging session at Terrible’s gave a glimpse into the potential multifuel future of the service station industry.

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