If electric cars are going to ever capture anything more than a tiny sliver of the U.S. auto market, not only does a robust EV charging infrastructure need to be developed, there has to be an easy way to find those stations. Until recently, there has only been a fragmented collection of maps, usually based on charging networks or business and association partnerships. But as of last week, you can now get the location of EV charging stations on the Google Maps platform.
In partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and using data from the Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center, you can now locate over 600 stations nationally by typing "EV charging station near [city/location]" at Google Maps. The station locations are pinpointed and listed in the viewing pane to the left of the map, just like any other Google Maps search result.
In the U.S. all the search results we tested had phone numbers and were explicitly categorized as an "Electric Vehicle Charging Station," an official category that previously did not exist in Google Maps. The locator also works in London, UK but not in the four other major European cities I tested.
"We’d like to continue adding more charging stations to Google Maps, so we’re excited that our friends over at the the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are working to make more data available," writes Cynthia Yeung of Google's Strategic Partner Development Team at the Google Lat Long Blog. "We’ll be adding more EV charging locations to Google Maps as their database, and others, are updated," she writes.
The new EV charging station locator, which will obviously be accessible via smartphone (and especially useful if it has turn-by-turn navigation), was announced just two days after a California startup released an iPhone app called PlugShare that allows EV users to locate charging stations, both public and private, check their availability and also share the location of their own at-home chargers.
Another new project, Electric Car Stations, which also uses the Google Maps platform, feels and behaves more like a wiki, giving community members the ability to add/edit stations and updating listings with more information like photos, tips, hours, phone numbers, etc.