EV chargers at California rest stops? Not so fast, say the feds

In 2016, California’s Department of Transportation settled on what seemed like a no-brainer way to reduce emissions and make it easier to use electric vehicles. It would establish fast-charging stations at 30 highway rest stops and other sites it operates around the state.

That, it turns out, is harder to do than it seems.

Of the 30 charging stations it said it would complete by last year, it has built three. And because of a twist in federal highway law, the state might be on the hook to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year of charging electricity bills, while the motorists themselves pay nothing.

The little-known episode underscores how difficult it is to build a charging network for electric vehicles, the biggest change to the country’s fueling system since the birth of the automobile.