Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Come to Underserved Communities

EVCS uses partnerships to fund the expansion, which has started on the West Coast.

Alysha Webb, Contributor

January 11, 2023

3 Min Read
"We want to adopt a Starbucks’ model where you are never more than five minutes away from an EVCS station,” says EVCS’ Vishnevsky.Getty Images

Electric vehicle (EV) adoption has been out of reach for many shoppers due to high prices – models cost about $10,000 more than gasoline-powered vehicles –  and a lack of charging infrastructure. Buyers have mainly been well-off first adopters, and public charging stations have been built for their convenience.

Public-private partnerships refer to using government funding – in EVCS’ case, mostly from state governments – to build charging networks. Such funding “allows us to put charging stations in underserved communities, places where normally there isn’t a case to put charging stations,” EVCS’ co-founder Ian Vishnevsky tells Wards.

The definition of underserved communities varies by state, but EVCS defines it based on California’s disadvantaged communities standard. Those communities, often in low-income areas, are “disproportionately burdened by multiple sources of pollution,” according to the California Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Project (Cal eVIP) website. Currently, 60 of EVCS’s more than 150 charging stations are in disadvantaged or low-income community areas.

To be sure, a hefty chunk of funding is available through the California Energy Commission. In December 2022, it approved a $2.9 billion EV charging and hydrogen refueling infrastructure plan. In November, the California Air Resources Board approved a $2.6 billion EV purchase incentive package, with 70% aimed at disadvantaged and low-income communities. The infrastructure funding is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, depending on who wants to host the chargers, says Vishnevsky (pictured, below left). EVCS has not yet received any funding from California.



It did receive a grant from Oregon’s Department of Transportation to upgrade 44 charging stations on Oregon’s portion of the West Coast Electric Highway, a charging network running from Canada to California. Phase One of the upgrade, replacing existing CHAdeMO-only DC fast-charging stations with CCS1-combo and CHAdeMO DCFC charging capability, was completed in May 2022.

EVCS has undertaken similar upgrades in Washington state, says Vishnevsky. The company has focused on the West Coast, where most EV owners live, he says. It has thus far installed some 670 chargers in more than 150 locations.

Founded in 2018, Los Angeles-based EVCS is not yet profitable, says Vishnevsky. “As a new industry, we are still on the path of figuring out how we become profitable,” he says. “The (public-private) programs allow us to put charging stations in the ground. We believe that as an industry, we will get to the point where we can become profitable.”

Users can choose from three subscription-based plans. The entry level is $49.99 monthly for up to 200 kWh of charging with a 40% discount on additional charges. It comes with a 30-day free trial. “We are experimenting with some price levels to really understand if people can benefit from lower pricing plans,” says Vishnevsky.  

Last July, EVCS announced it had raised $68.8 million, including a $50 million debt facility and an $18.8 million Series A equity investment. The debt facility will be used to put stations in the ground; the equity portion is to develop EVCS, including hiring people, says Vishnevsky.

Not all of its efforts are focused on providing charging to disadvantaged communities. EVCS is “in conversations with” Tesla about retrofitting 20 of its Los Angeles stations to allow Tesla drivers to use the stations, says Vishnevsky. Given that the majority of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) currently on the road are Teslas, this would provide a boost in user numbers. Station utilization is only around 5%, so others wouldn’t have to line up behind Teslas to wait for a charge.

Other goals for EVCS this year include doubling its DC fast charging footprint. Only half of its stations currently are fast charging. It will continue focusing on the West Coast as it builds its network.

“We want to adopt a Starbucks’ model,” says Vishnevsky, “where you are never more than five minutes away from an EVCS station.”


About the Author(s)

Alysha Webb


Based in Los Angeles, Alysha Webb has written about myriad aspects of the automotive industry for more than than two decades, including automotive retail, manufacturing, suppliers, and electric vehicles. She began her automotive journalism career in China and wrote reports for Wards Intelligence on China's electric vehicle future and China's autonomous vehicle future. 

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