Wednesday, February 26, 2014

State of the Charge Report

2014 looks to be an active year for EVs with setbacks coming from all directions. But, its not all bad news!

First of all, WA State wanted to hamper Tesla's ability to open more showrooms despite having one of the largest market shares in the country.  This is strange. Yes, there is no sales tax but there must still be B&O taxes Tesla pays so more showrooms means more sales, more taxes paid to the state and more of our homegrown electricity put to use to benefit us right?!!

So that was headed off somewhat but looks like any new upstart will have a much tougher time of it.

But the source of most of the news is the various charging network providers. Seems they all want a part of the headlines!

Car Charging (aka Blink)

The Blink saga is ongoing. Car Charging Group seems to have no more money or ability to handle the mess left behind than Blink did on its way out. I will say that Blink seemed to be improving during its last few months but all that stopped the day CCG took over and the system is literally comatose.  Now, homeowners are having support issues with their home based Blinks. Add to that, reports that CCG wants to stabilize the network before working on expansion and it looks like the delays will be extending far into the Summer. But that is making a lot of assumptions.  But that is all we have right now. They could very well being putting together an action plan that could be implemented with results in a few weeks instead of months.  At least, that is what I am hoping for.

Aeroenvironment (aka AV aka West Coast Green Highway)

At first there was 3 but then there was 2.  The plan was to have a charging network to do the Baja to BC drive.  Washington, Oregon and California had an agreement to put in stations every 20 to 50 miles so a LEAFer could travel the West Coast.  Well, OR and WA finished their end and CA got derailed.  The first stations went in OR in Spring of 2012 with WA following a few months later.  Billing was supposed to have started that Fall and on the AV portal, each of my fast charges did have a $2.50 next to it. I thought that was fair... actually MORE than fair.

But despite getting notices about a billing start, it did not happen.  That made us owners happy and created resentment among hosts expecting a new revenue stream.  But the day we have all been expecting has finally come.  Soon, billing at AV stations will happen with a subscription price of $19.99 (possibly a promo price??) a month for unlimited or $7.50 for fast charge, $4.00 for L2 charge per session.  Not quite sure if these are finalized prices since as a FOB carrying member of the AV Network, I have yet to receive my official email... (yes, that is a hint!)

Well, this was a bit of a shock.  Several of us had wanted a billing scheme LONG ago. There is simply too many people using the fast chargers who have little need to do so. Some are local and simply charge because it fast, convenient and FREE. This makes the true traveler who has to charge wait longer than they need to. Check the AV Network and Burlington is almost ALWAYS in use. Tumwater frequently as well. Keep in mind; these are the two stations bordering the area I commonly term as the Blink Blight (Bling Blight is the area aka Seattle that was scheduled to have as many as 22 fast charge stations provided by Blink but 11 were installed and currently less than half are working. This is also the most densely populated area of the state where probably 90% of EV owners live) so the need to charge there is VITAL to many.  But too many times, people living in the area of these stations are charging too.  A "reasonable" fee will cut that traffic down so the stations can start being used as intended.

Now, the response to the announcement was as immediate as it was predictable. I have used the Tumwater station frequently despite living less than 10 miles from it but due to time constraints that would not allow me to get the charge I needed at home. So, my sessions frequently were in the 10-15 minute range. I either had ONLY that much time or simply got what I needed and moved on.   So, a time based fee system is what I really wanted but apparently that is not a feature the AV Network can currently offer. Ok then, if the hardware can't do it, it cant do it. But that is only the beginning of the problems.

Now, AV states that ALL per session charges, we must call in to AV to provide a credit card # over the phone! Which means another delay getting the charge we need. Now, is this a true limitation of their network? A cost cutting move? or simply them wanting everyone to subscribe to the monthly fee schedule?

I suspect the latter and that really does not work for me. Being on the edge of Blink Blight,  I simply don't have the need to use the network unless headed South. Yes, south is in my district and yes, we do have a regular commute headed South but the LEAF is no longer doing that.  So, the need to head that direction is very infrequent for me.  In fact, the last time in that direction was back in Sept.  I will say, I have taken on a new client at work and this promises to add a lot of work South of Tumwater but that remains to be seen.  But anyway; a subscription is not likely to work for me unless the network is expanded to go West towards Aberdeen, East towards Tacoma or North towards Seattle.  But, either way, their official response is software limitations.


Saving the best for last! Unlike the others, Chargepoint only administers the network after the host purchases the stations. They have been both the most expensive, cheapest, most widespread, and up until recently the least convenient.

WOW!! make sense of that statement!! Its not easy, but Chargepoint Stations have the billing set by the host and that makes sense. The host, as the owner, does not have to answer to anyone right?  So, they maybe free like Sunset Air in Lacey, or a per session fee of $3.00 like Tacoma Transit,  or Super Cheap like the one I stumbled upon in Gig Harbor charging a mere 50 cents an hour! FYI; that is cheaper than I can charge at home with my 6 KW charger. LOVE THAT STATION!! But up till now, they have only been the dual headed L1/L2 stations. I love them, there are a ton of free ones located at State facilities all around me but I simply don't have the time usually to use them.

Talon Portfolio Services and Urban Renaissance Property Company announced the addition of four level two electric vehicle (EV) charging ports and one DC Fast Charger manufactured by Eaton, to the Bellefield Office Park, located at 1150 114th Ave SE in Bellevue, WA. All five charging locations will run on ChargePoint’s network, the largest and most open EV charging network in the nation with over 15,000 charging locations.

WOW!! the first Chademo Chargepoint in WA with promises of more already in the works!! This is HUGE!!  Now, we have Chargepoint billing flexibility along with Chargepoint Network status reports which seems to work better than most.  With the announcement just coming down yesterday, details are sketchy and who knows?? The billing scheme could be worse than AV's but this charger is nearly dead center in Blink Blight so even a bad billing scenario could be overlooked if it provides fast chargers in vitally needed areas that Blink could not service and AV won't!!


  1. You tagline at top should be rewritten as "Electric Vehicles are here to stay but that does not mean that there aren't a lot of misconceptions about them."

    1. corrected!! ya, that has been mentioned a few times. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. I got the email yesterday and I've already signed up. I can sort of charge L1 at home by throwing the cord out my 2nd story condo window, but that's not always an option (extreme cold/rain, somebody parks in that spot, I don't have time). I'll gladly pay to play, especially if that means the network might grow. The AV units in Bellingham have been extremely reliable, and if I get a next-gen Leaf with 150 miles of range then I'll be road tripping all over.

    I agree the 1st L3 Chargepoint is a big deal, and I hope that catches on as well.

    1. Thanks for the reply and that is one segment I forgot to mention. I do know a couple that had major issues with getting an EVSE installed in their home. It was delay after delay but they were lucky enough that they lived near Tumwater's station and worked near the Centrailia station so they could charge there while waiting on everything. They were also both using the LEAF to commute as she worked days and he worked nights so they were really doubling up on the savings!