There was no unveiling ceremony with state officials, no ribbon cutting, not even a press release. But the recent installation of two high-speed electric vehicle charging terminals at an I-95 rest stop in Lexington merits some celebration.
Made by California charging company ChargePoint, the terminals are designed with easily replaceable modular parts in case of malfunction. That should help avoid what has plagued some of the state’s earliest highway installations, such as the chargers on the Mass. Pike that were broken for more than a year. And the additions will help fill a critical need for fast charging as the state seeks to convince hundreds of thousands of drivers to shift to electric vehicles by 2030 to curb carbon emissions.
On a brisk and cloudy day this week, the Lexington terminals were in good working order, charging a reporter’s EV at the maximum speed accepted by the car. Inside, the rest stop offered pizza, Honeydew doughnuts, bathrooms, and a convenience store. Adding 50 percent capacity at the charging session cost $12.55.
EV drivers have yet to report an outage in Lexington since the terminals went online in December, according to the widely used PlugShare app. And four similar terminals MassDOT installed at rest stops on Route 24 in Bridgewater a year ago have almost no reported outages.
That’s somewhat unusual in the charging industry, where reliability has become a major concern for all but Tesla drivers. (Tesla owns and operates a proprietary charger network only for its customers.) A study of chargers in California last year found more than one-quarter not functioning.
While many early fast-charger installations were placed behind big-box stores or at the edges of mall parking lots, new stations will increasingly resemble the well-lit Lexington and Bridgewater stations next to restaurants and other facilities.
“To be frank, the way it’s been done up to now has been bad,” Michael Hughes, chief revenue officer at ChargePoint, said. The new placement strategy is to put chargers “with the set of amenities that you want.”
And non-Tesla Massachusetts EV drivers will continue seeing additional charging spots. Up next, MassDOT said it is installing fast chargers at rest stops on I-95 in Newton and Route 6 in Barnstable, an especially important location as Cape Cod is critically short of non-Tesla fast chargers. All of the recent activity has been funded with federal environmental program grants.
But the state is also getting about $9 million per year of federal funds from the massive infrastructure funding bill with plans to add 40 to 44 more chargers on major highways by the end of this year. The plan, approved by the US Department of Transportation last year, ultimately looks to add 92 chargers by the end of 2025. And public utilities won approval for a plan to spend $400 million to encourage EV ownership, including investments for fast chargers.
With EV purchases more than doubling in Massachusetts since 2019 and growing further this year, the new chargers should be busy.