The small ex-Soviet satellite state of Estonia is the unlikely location for the world’s first nationwide network of DC fast chargers.
The network of 200 fast charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs) is a project of the energy and automation technology group ABB, KredEx and the Estonian Finance Ministry.
At present only one of the chargers is up and running, at the Innovation Center in the Estonian capital Tallinn.
So far 168 chargers have been sited for highways and inner cities, including 27 in Tallinn. All the stations are expected to be completed and up and running by the fall of this year.
DC fast chargers are a significant leap forward in the bid to get more electric cars on the road.
EV technology has advanced a long way in recent years, enough to mean that some new model electric cars can go as far on a single charge as a conventional car on a tank of fuel. For example, Tesla Motors Model S, expected to hit the market this summer, comes with an optional 85-kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery and claims a range of 300 miles.
Even so, the availability of recharging stations means drivers face restrictions about where and for how long they can travel.
This so-called “range anxiety” has been eased somewhat by a growth in charging stations. However, many of these stations use AC current. Of 10 new charging stations just opened in Washington state, for example, only 2 were DC chargers.
While an AC charge station, known as Level 2 chargers, is better than none at all of course, the fact remains that AC chargers can take hours to juice up a depleted battery whereas the two DC chargers set up in Washington can do the job in under a half hour.
To help spur interest in the charging stations, the Estonian government has bought over 500 Mitsubishi i-MiEVs, which it is hoping to sell at a discount price to car drivers in the country.