Walgreens to host EV charging stations

NRG Energy partners with the pharmacy chain and others as it rolls out a retail EV charging network in the Houston area.

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
The eVgo Network's initial launch in 2011 includes EV charging stations in the Houston area along highways and in high-traffic shopping and business districts. eVgo

The Walgreens pharmacy chain will offer rapid-charging EV stations at 18 Houston-area stores next year, through a partnership with power utility NRG Energy.

NRG's eVgo Network(pronounced ee-vee-go), one of the first commercial electric-vehicle-charging networks to launch in the U.S., will initially consist of over 100 charging stations and cost NRG about $10 million in infrastructure investment.

The eVgo Network will be rolled out in early 2011 throughout Houston and Harris County, Texas, and include two types of facilities, as well as two types of EV charging stations.

The eVgo network will be an integration of both Level 2 chargers, which generally take four hours to recharge an EV to full capacity, and DC rapid chargers, which can charge an EV in about 30 minutes.

NRG plans to install 50 eVgo "Freedom Stations," which will be open 24/7 and located in areas like shopping and business parking lots, as well as stops along major highways. They will have either Level 2 or DC rapid chargers.

The eVgo Network will also include "convenience stations," which will be hosted by retailers in their parking lots and remain open for the duration of the retailers' business hours. Those stations will consist of DC rapid chargers and offer an option to recharge for 30 miles of range in 10 minutes. In addition to the Walgreens launch, some Best Buy, HEB grocery stores, and Spec's liquor stores will also offer the DC rapid chargers.

NRG will also offer a "home-and-away" subscription service that will give customers unlimited access to any of the network's public stations, in addition to having a Level 2 fast-charging station installed at their home.

The network charging stations will be supplied by AeroVironment, which will also manage the integrated communications, data analysis, and maintenance. AeroVironment is known for its rapid-charging stations and already has a deal in place with Think in the U.S. Using AeroVironment's rapid-charging staions, a Think City EV can recharge from zero to 80 percent capacity in 15 minutes, according to the company.

NRG's subscription service, which includes the cost of the home-charging station and its installation, will cost between $49 and $89 per month for a three-year contract, according to NRG.

That's $1,764 to $3,204 over three years. While it may be the perfect solution for EV owners who travel long distances and need the security of a free EV network, others might want to look into other options. Some EV owners may qualify for one of the many free or reduced-rate municipal or federal programs making EV charging stations available for first-time EV owners.

The first 4,400 buyers of the Chevy Volt, for example, are being offered free home charging stations and installation in exchange for participation in a government research project that collects the station's usage data.