Google, DOE building definitive electric-car map

Department of Energy's partnership with electric-vehicle industry leaders is creating a comprehensive, up-to-date database of all EV charging and service stations in U.S.

Candace Lombardi
In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.
Candace Lombardi
2 min read
U.S. Department of Energy

Google and more than 80 other companies are collaborating with the Department of Energy to make it simple for drivers of electric vehicles to find parts and charging sites.

Via a partnership called the GeoEVSE Forum, the organizations are pooling their data to build a definitive database of all available EV charging stations in the U.S. regardless of the manufacturer or network, the DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory said yesterday.

The GPS and mapping system database will also include all available electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) stations.

While the data will be organized using Google mapping tools, it will be kept and managed by the DOE Clean Cities Initiative and National Renewable Energy Laboratory. It will be open to the public via the DOE's online Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center.

The online center, which already lists 600 stations, is available to the public as a database via the Alternative Fueling Station Locator tool, as well as to third parties looking to download the data source for use in other systems. The tool includes a way to find other alternative fuel stations like compressed natural gas or hydrogen, as well as electric-vehicle charging stations broken out by charging speed. One can use the Google mapping tool, or look up total station counts for a given fuel source by state.

Electronics retailer Best Buy will offer charging stations at some Texas locations via the eVgo Network. eVgo

Partners on the project include charging station manufacturers like Coulomb and retailers like Best Buy, which now host stations in some of its parking lots.

"This goal of this new collaboration is to establish a primary data source for GPS and mapping services tracking electric vehicle supply equipment locations--or charging stations," the National Renewable Energy Laboratory said in a statement.

While the map seems like a logical step in the evolution of the electric-vehicle industry in the U.S., it may also serve to boost public trust in such vehicles as a reliable mode of transportation.

A comprehensive cross-cultural study of electric-vehicle pilot programs released by Accenture in February found that public charging stations around the world have not yet been getting enough use to pay for themselves.

The study surmised that this could simply be a case of governments and industry leaders managing to get infrastructure in place before demand. But it warned of several issues if people become attached to home charging. Mass home-charging at night could put a strain on the electric grid. Companies might stop investing in charging stations if they think they're underused and thus create a shortage of available public stations as electric-vehicle adoption increases.

Finally, if people believe they must always charge at home, it could inhibit the adoption of electric cars. The general public might see them as insufficient for their needs, particularly if they're unaware that public charging stations exist in sufficient number to supply them for an extended car trip or take them beyond their home range.