Two Bay Area companies that operate public charging stations for electric vehicles are joining forces to make it easier for drivers to charge their cars.
ChargePoint, based in Campbell, and ECOtality, based in San Francisco, are not merging. Instead, they have created Collaboratev, a separate service that will allow for charging at any of the two companies' stations and billing across both networks. They also will share data on where each charging station is located.
ChargePoint currently owns about 11,000 charging stations nationwide while ECOtality operates 4,000, so the combined service will give electric vehicle drivers access to about 15,000 public charging stations.
"This is awesome news," said Chad Schwitters, a Seattle resident and board member of the electric vehicle advocacy group Plug In America. "There are at least seven different companies that operate charging stations, and as a driver you should be able to use them all. This is absolutely something the electric vehicle industry needs."
Pat Romano, the CEO of ChargePoint, uses the analogy of ATM machines.
"If you have a Bank of America card, you can still get cash out of a Wells Fargo ATM machine," said Romano. "This is the same thing."
ChargePoint and ECOtality are competitors, but both share the goal of seeing more electric vehicles on American roads. They hope other charging station providers, from GE to NRG, will join Collaboratev as affiliates.
"EV drivers like this idea," said Jerry Pohorsky, president of the Silicon Valley Chapter of the Electric Auto Association and owner of a ChargePoint card. The new partnership means he can now use ECOtality's "Blink" chargers with his ChargePoint account.
"I just alluded to the problem of having a ChargePoint card and not having a Blink card in an email I sent out to our group about the new Blink fast charger at the Santa Clara library," he said.
Drivers of electric cars want places besides their home garage to recharge their batteries, and public stations at workplaces, grocery stores and shopping malls are widely seen as part of the solution.
Other companies in the nascent electric vehicle charging market are taking note. NRG operates 37 fast chargers in Texas and is seeking permits to open stations in California and the Washington, D.C. area.
Carly Kade of NRG EV Services. "We are already working to achieve (interoperability) in California with pay per use credit card transactions to allow every EV driver to have the benefits of fast charging with or without being a subscriber to any service. We will definitely assess this Collaboratev program as we learn more about it."
Contact Dana Hull at 408-920-2706. Follow her at Twitter.com/danahull.