Come to the dark side…

Quick funny- in the last few days, I’ve had two different Volt drivers ping me to see if I knew where a particular public charger was located. That they were both looking for the same one suggests we need better signage at these locations, but eventually one of them found it. Turns out that it’s part of Coulomb’s ChargePoint network, so even though it was free to use, he was out of luck- even the free chargers require the acquisition of a $10 network card ahead of time. He tried calling the 800-number on the charger normally used by non-subscribers to enable point-of-sale charging, but the operator couldn’t remotely unlock that charger for some reason. (I firmly believe that these sorts of needless barriers will end up causing more harm than good for new EV drivers and the image of the network providers, but that’s a different post.)

I pointed out to both of them that it’s not like they really needed the charge to get back home, since they were driving a Volt. Like clockwork, each came back with the same response: that he was trying to stay in EV mode as much as possible in order to raise his “lifetime mpg” number. It was as much a game to them as everyone who’s competed on range or mpg over the years, but it was also yet one more confirmation of what EV drivers have known for years: once you show people the experience of driving electric for even part of their daily driving, they’ll want to do it more and more.

The funny? Both were GM employees. Welcome to the dark side, boys… ;o)

23 thoughts on “Come to the dark side…

  1. Dark side indeed. Just don’t eat all the cookies…

    I shouldn’t, but I can’t help myself, if they’d been driving a LEAF, they could have made the round trip without needing the charge.

    There, I did it, and I’m not even sorry.

    ;~)

  2. There has to be a simpler method to accessing the chargers. Will each network require a different card to use the charger? You’ll have to have a wallet full of cards on you all the time.
    I need to start looking into this as I want to install a public charger in my parking lot in the spring. I am also going to convert my Clipper Creek CS60 to a J1772 plug so I’ll have two chargers on site but the Clipper Creek is behind my building and not really meant for public use unless it’s really necessary.
    Any recommendations?

    1. Yes, there’s a much simpler method- just put a charger in the ground and let people use it. Has worked for 15 years, with very few issues (and none that any of these network cars or locked chargers will solve.)

      The one round back can be solved with a sign that it’s not for public use w/o permission, etc.

    2. Some time ago, (Like over a year,) I contemplated installing an EV charging station before the j1772 was legislated into being. I was going to use a disconnect box with GFCI and 60 A breaker and manual shut-off on the wall and add a coin operated timer like the dryer in a laundromat, (They are very reliable) wire the j1772 cable and plug into the metal box and run a metal conduit and suitable size wire from the box to the power panel and inside to a new 240 volt 60 Amp breaker inside the supply panel. This system works with quarters not fancy cards. Cost for parts and install is about $1,000 and this unit can provide 3Kw per hour at a cost of $0.35 here so give 30 minutes for a quarter and make a small profit without any card company charging a service fee !

    3. Actually Coulomb has figured this out and has started to install a charger that uses your new “Pay Pass” tap credit cards.

      “SAN FRANCSICO – November 16, 2010 – Coulomb Technologies, the leader in electric vehicle (EV) charging station infrastructure, today unveiled the first ChargePoint® Network charging station for electric plug-in vehicles that accepts MasterCard®PayPass™ contactless payments.”

      http://www.coulombtech.com/pr/news-press-releases-2010-1116b.php

      Kind of like handing your wallet to the cashier and saying “I trust you”. Me? I’ll buy the card.

      1. Interesting- look forward to hearing folks’ experiences with those.

        It’s not the $10 I object to nearly as much as the process. Free chargers just shouldn’t involve that much hassle- to say nothing of the larger issue of taxpayer dollars going to monetized charging.

  3. Love it or hate it, “pay to play” chargers are going to become a very common thing, especially as Level III charging ramps up. I hope that there will always be free Level II chargers available to the general public, but the cynic in me has my doubts. Cheers, FB

    1. I agree that charging will ultimately be monetized, probably Level 3/DC fast before Level 2. But don’t think it will be viable for Level 2 for a few years, and it’s a bummer for new EV drivers to find a free site only to find that they can’t use it because they didn’t know to order a card, etc. And it’s in those first few days that they’ll be most likely to “need” that charge as they’re just learning the ropes of EV driving. While it’s still free, it just seems like an extra unnecessary step to me- and the first story of someone being stranded will reflect badly on the whole industry.

  4. The $10 fee for the “ChargePoint Network” is not bad, they send you either a credit card RFID or a key fob RFID (your choice). They are also setting it up so the venue can charge a small fee (and of course the ChargePoint Network will bill you, they have the ability to take your credit card info, if you want to use the chargers that are not free). There aren’t going to be that many networks, I wouldn’t worry about wallet fulls of charging cards. Eventually, none of these are going to be free, and the ChargePoint Network is just anticipating that and getting ready for it.

    1. Coulomb Tech says “Prices appear on the station display, on the Google maps found at mychargepoint.net”, but in clicking around their map I’ve never seen a “Fee required” indicator. I guess their strategy is “1. Get lots of people to sign up for pre-paid ChargePass as a salve to their supposed Range Anxiety, 2. Bank the fees, 3. Sprinkle magic buzzwords like ‘Monetize social network of EV users’, 4. Profit!”

      Fast DC (Level 3) charge is 5X more expensive to install and provide, and isn’t something you can do at home; that’s definitely worth $$. Charging for the dollar of electricity an EV uses an hour from a level 2 is doable and may become common, but won’t win you any friends.

  5. If you want more details on building a coin-op charging station for EV contact me directly, I am preparing to open a tech school for EV Tech/mechanics, I will tell you the stuff others all fear you might discover and cut the Obscene Profits from installing a j1772 charging station for $4,500… My system is about $1,000 installed !
    http://WWW.DennisLeeMiles.COM

  6. I had this very problem at the two J chargers at LAX. I had some time to kill (it was a pickup) and I called the 800 number. No matter what information I gave them, they couldn’t find those two chargers in their system.

    Giving the power to a company to lock the chargers might have been okay if it wasn’t such a lame company.

    1. same chargers, Colin. Someone else has since told me that they’ve yet to be energized in the first place due to “politics” (will have to do some digging w/in the City of LA to see what that even means). Why there’s no signage or anything that notes these as non-op is beyond me…

  7. This reminded me to sign up for ChargePoint and order cards. I can’t believe they have a charger on the pier with no J connector on it. And I wish they would pressure Santa Monica to replace the one on Montana.

    If they are smart they will follow Chelsea’s advice and not charge for the regular charging, just the super-fast model. Or charge a nominal fee, like a parking meter rate (which is fine if you aren’t already paying for parking).

  8. Their map show all of three chargers. This is so exciting. It’s like seeing the first three missions built along the Camino Real, right? I mean, other than the fact that there are a huge number of other chargers. And the fact that Coulomb seems to be sitting on their hands a little much for a fast-moving technology.

  9. At this point I will not give up my AAA card and premium service with 100 mile towing I can always get home. (They will “Tow” for discharged battery , or flat tire too.) And they always use the flat bed transport at no extra charge too! CHEEP Insurance for under $100 and they can take you to a working charging location!

  10. Dennis. Look into the Better World Club. They do everything AAA does, plus bicycle breakdown service- which AAA does not. They also don’t actively lobby against mass transit and higher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles- which AAA does! AAA also actively lobbies against electric vehicles and other green initiatives in the transpo sector- anything which would threaten the current ICE/OIL status quo. So dump AAA and go for a Better World. You’ll be glad you did! Almost forgot- BW also donates 5% of their profits to green initiatives.

  11. Dennis. Look into the Better World Club. They do everything AAA does for the same price, plus bicycle breakdown service- which AAA does not. They also don’t actively lobby against mass transit and higher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles- which AAA does! AAA also actively lobbies against electric vehicles and other green initiatives in the transpo sector- anything which would threaten the current ICE/OIL status quo. So dump AAA and go for a Better World. You’ll be glad you did! Almost forgot- BW also donates 5% of their profits to green initiatives.

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