Charging points still sticking point for electric vehicle drivers

Charging points still sticking point for electric vehicle drivers

Summary: Non-rhetorical question: if you bought an electric vehicle tomorrow, would you know where to charge it outside your home?

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TOPICS: Networking
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If it seems like only geeks are qualified to drive electric vehicles, you may be right. Even though I am a Jersey girl who is still not allowed to pump gasoline in my own state, at least I know how to do it if I need to, and pick the right grade fuel to boot.

The fact is, it is still a whole lot harder to figure out how, where and when to charge electric vehicles, a thesis that is explored in a recent Consumer Reports article, "Electric car drivers left hanging in charger wars."

The writer Eric Evart, reports that even when drivers can find a place to charge, it is difficult to figure out whether or not the technology is compatible with their particular vehicle. Add the whole private charging versus public charging twist, and no wonder ordinary folk are leery about buying electric vehicles. It's too involved. Range anxiety is a real thing when you can't just pull into the corner gas station.

I noticed this story because in early May, the company behind the ChargePoint network, Coulomb Technologies, disclosed it has raised $47.5 million in Series D funding to help expand its effort. The money comes from Braemer Energy Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Toyota Tsusho Corp. and Rho Ventures.

"These funds enable us to provide cloud-based solutions to cities, retailers, parking operators and property managers that will drive the adoption of clean transportation," said Pat Roman, president and CEO of Coulomb Technologies.

Coulomb supports manufacturers including Nissan, BMW, Ford, GM and Fisker Automotive in efforts to make the charging process easier for drivers.

One of the challenges faced by electric vehicle drivers, according to the Consumer Reports article, is the authentication process that they need to endure when charging. So, even if you find a charge point AND its compatible with your vehicle AND you have the time to wait, if you don't have the write credentials you might be out of luck. This scenario becomes more likely as you travel outside your typical driving region.

There are a series of non-network-specific mobile applications and Web sites, such as PlugShare or this combined site from Google and the Department of Energy, that drivers can consult in order to plot out where they might get charged up during a trip. But right now, many electric vehicles apparently are charging their vehicles at home, because it is the easiest thing to do.

Until that habit changes, electric vehicle adoption will remain sluggish.

[via Consumer Reports]

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6 comments
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  • Move north =)

    Move north, where there are outlets for engine block heaters in some parking lots =).

    Meh, they really need to go to a standards body and agree upon a single design for the quick chargers.

    "One of the challenges faced by electric vehicle drivers, according to the Consumer Reports article, is the authentication process that they need to endure when charging. So, even if you find a charge point AND its compatible with your vehicle AND you have the time to wait, if you dont have the write credentials you might be out of luck."

    Jeez, whose hairbrained idea was that???

    No credentials. Charge the car, pay for it. Just like gasoline. Why complexify the entire process with some sort of "credential" system? Just treat it like gasoline. If you're really concerned about driving off without paying, have them pre-pay using cash or credit card.
    CobraA1
    • why a membership card?

      Level 2 (240V AC) chargers and cars are completely standardized on the SAE J1772 connector, except for Tesla which requires an adapter from the public standard to their proprietary plug design. DC Quick Chargers are quickly coalescing around the CHAdeMO design.

      Some paid public charging stations accept credit cards. But electricity is so cheap, the price of the fuel is overwhelmed by the minimum transaction fee. So a network card aggregates many charging sessions into one credit card transaction.
      In the more common case of free public stations, or employer stations that are restricted but free to the user, a network lets the driver monitor her monthly consumption, receive text messages about charging session events (tank full, plug out, GFCI trip), etc.
      bsut
      • Still holding them back

        "But electricity is so cheap, the price of the fuel is overwhelmed by the minimum transaction fee."

        Regardless, it's holding back the popularity of the electric vehicle. Nobody wants to have more inconvenience. Doesn't matter what the benefits are if you come to a charger that won't take you.

        They have to eat the cost if they want to be realistic about making electric cars common. They can have a "benefits card" similar to what grocery stores, retailers, and even some gas stations offer. But they can't make it mandatory.
        CobraA1
  • Electric vehicles will only stay a fad...

    ...as long as their range is limited, charging takes hours, rather than minutes, and charging stations are few and far between.

    Until electric vehicles can go 400+ miles on a single charge...be FULLY recharged in under 10 minutes...they will not be adopted in large numbers. Some places in Europe are/were experimenting with drive through replaceable battery packs for cars, and that makes sense, but only if the cost is reasonable, and the swap time is short, say ten minutes or less. But the chances of that happening in the US anytime soon is slim to none.

    There is also the little issue of WHERE the electricity that charges these vehicles is generated from. If it comes from a Solar, or wind, or hydro gernerating plant fine, but if it comes from a plant burning fossil fuels to generate the electircity, then where is the "green" aspect of it? All you are doing is buring the fuel somewhere else to generate power for the vehicle.

    And by the way..."if you dont have the write credentials you might be out of luck."

    Don't they mean RIGHT...as in correct...instead of WRITE...as in writing to a memory device?

    And then there is this:

    http://www.wired.com/autopia/2012/02/bricked-tesla-roadsters/

    Let your Tesla's battery drain completely...and you are screwed. That'll be USD$32,000.00 for a new battery pack please. Nice.
    IT_Fella
  • Journalism and clarifications...

    I agree with you ... author calls herself a journalist yet fails to proof-read.

    RIGHT vs. WRITE and

    "But right now, many electric vehicles apparently are charging their vehicles at home, because it is the easiest thing to do."

    EV's are charging themselves? And "are" and "apparently" are reversed.

    Tesla's don't "brick" ... you are referring to one incident on a UK TV show.

    And almost all EV batteries are warrantied for 8 years, 100,000 miles.

    Even if your energy DOES come from a coal burning plant, you still have to weigh the EFFICIENCIES involved. Electric motors are about 80% efficient, gas 20%, if you are lucky. So you are still much better off!

    Today, most public chargers are free, some take credit cards and if you owned an EV you would have gotten ChargePoint's swipe card anyway.

    So, what did we learn? Comment when you own an EV?
    sp4rk
  • Know Your History

    It was 1909 and you did something that resulted in you being derided by your friends, picked on by the luddites and simply ridiculed by most of those you encountered: you bought a car. The press was full of letters to the editor about the noise and the stink that these things brought with them. On more than one occasion cars were destroyed by organized public groups protesting them in their community.

    If you owned a car you had a huge problem; how were you going to refuel the thing? There were no car dealers at the time - your car was shipped to you. In most communities the General store had to be convinced to carry gasoline which these new engines ran on. That was ridiculous too as everyone knew that gasoline was a waste product from the refinement of kerosene which everyone needed. Gasoline was essentially free since most of it was dumped into our waterways by the refineries.

    If you were lucky you lived in a town with two or three other "Horseless Carriage" owners and you could get some buying power... and perhaps the kerosene dealer would come by your house with a hand or horse drawn cart filled with gasoline for you auto.

    It took 20 years before "service stations" became the preferred method of fuel delivery on a national basis. I don't think we should expect anything different when it comes to this new technology...
    LasPaled