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Charging points still sticking point for electric vehicle drivers

Non-rhetorical question: if you bought an electric vehicle tomorrow, would you know where to charge it outside your home?
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

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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