Consumers around the globe and here in the United States can agree that some aspects of our modern lifestyles are in need of reconsideration – namely making transportation more efficient, lessening our carbon emissions, and moving away from dependence on foreign oil. But, there is good news; more consumers are starting to purchase renewable technology vehicles, such as hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, than ever before.

Manufacturers like Chevrolet, Nissan and Toyota are increasing the popularity of these vehicles and making them more affordable. However, many potential buyers grow anxious when thinking about driving electric vehicles because of their limited range and the uncertainty of having an electric charging station nearby. Leave it to Google to figure out a way for electric vehicle (EV) drivers to find the nearest charging station.

This month Google announced a new feature to its Google Maps platform that allows customers to easily find the location of EV charging stations. According to a post on Google’s Lat Long Blog, until recently, there have been only fragmented collections of maps, usually based on charging networks or business and association partnerships. But, now drivers can get the location of EV charging stations on the Google Maps platform.

In partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and using data from the Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center, consumers can now locate more than 600 stations nationally by typing "EV charging station near [city/location]". The station locations are pinpointed and listed in the viewing pane to the left of the map, just like any other Google Maps search result.

Google Maps

This screen shot of Google Maps shows the pinpointed locations of electric vehicle charging stations. Credit: Google

Google also is working with NREL to add the data to its search engines. The Department of Energy (DOE) indexes the location of all new electric vehicle charging stations as part of its GeoEVSE Forum.

"We’d like to continue adding more charging stations to Google Maps, so we’re excited that our friends over at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are working to make more data available," wrote Cynthia Yeung of Google’s Strategic Partner Development Team at the Google Lat Long Blog. "We’ll be adding more EV charging locations to Google Maps as their database, and others, are updated.”

A sign points drivers toward an electric vehicle charging station

A sign points drivers toward an electric vehicle charging station. Credit: NAFTC

Google also mentions that the new EV charging station locator will obviously be accessible via smart phone. However, Google is not alone in this endeavor. A  California startup released an iPhone app called PlugShare that similarly allows EV users to locate charging stations, both public and private, check their availability and also share the location of their own at-home chargers.

At the 2009 California Institute of Technology commencement, Nobel Prize winner and current U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu told the graduating class that they must prepare for "the inevitable transition to electricity as the energy for our personal transportation."

This new feature from Google Maps is doing just that.

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