Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Public Charging; An Owner's Perspective

As we EV'ers are well aware of, the rollout of the public charging system has been far from smooth. Timelines were stretched, extended and sometimes just abandoned.  In WA, the West Coast Green Highway  Project (WCGH) was supposed to launch in Summer of 2011. It was then pushed back to Fall, then Spring and then finally the first stations started to come online in Early June, 2012 nearly a year late. As bad as that was, Aeroenvironment was way ahead of the National program being handled by Ecotality whose timeline was earlier than Aeroenvironment's.  In fact, very little has gone according to plan or expectations.

But when the stations did start coming on, it opened up a whole new world. Before, I had to know how much I needed to go to make sure I had the charge to make it but at the same time, I did not want to maintain too high a charge for fear of degrading my batteries quicker. Add to that, a commute of under 10 miles and it was not always the easiest thing to manage. I tended to keep my SOC between 30-60% or so. Only once (and it was not really critical) did I get caught with an insufficient charge and ended up taking the Prius (which I REALLY hated to do), but I really felt unprepared.

But with Tumwater QC open, I was able to jump over there to get a 10-12 minute boost which was enough to get me to Centrailia (where SO had worked for 4 years before her transfer to Lacey last month) It  became a very valuable asset to me and many others and because it was the only public quick charge station in a 55 mile gap to Seattle, it became one of the most used. In my gratitude, I always bought something from the Shell station while charging.

Today, I had a chance to talk with Mike Pak the owner of the station. His response was a bit shocking. He was upset that he was still not getting paid what Aeroenvironment had agreed to in the 5 year contract with him.  He was supposed to collect 5% of the revenue from the station but because AV had not yet started charging, he had received no money from them.  The energy of his response prompted me to find out exactly what his deal with AV was and that just made it that much stranger.

In the contract, AV paid for all the installation costs and the electricity being used so Pak had zero out of pocket expenses.  He did admit that most of the people who used the station except for a small handful did buy something from the store. I did point out that that is business he would not normally see so he is "making something"  

He stated "If this was a Shell corporate store, I bet they would not have tried to pull this off, but they do this because I am an independent owner"

I also asked him what AV had to say and they said they were still working out software bugs. He stated that they would investigate a possible "good faith" payment to him but would have to research the usage on the station and would get back to him in two months. This did not make him any happier...

Now, for anyone using AV, they receive (if they choose) a text anytime the car is plugged in. Well, a half a dozen times or more, I have received these messages that my LEAF was plugged in (I did verify the account number in the text as being mine) while I was sitting in my living room with the LEAF parked in the garage!  At the time, I thought it was a good thing the charging was still free because I did not want to "pay it forward" especially for someone I did not know...

Now AV was supposed to start charging just a few months after the stations were put in last Summer and that has not happened yet but the AV portal online does list a $2.50 charge per session which would be a bit disappointing.  I am a huge fan of just charging the bottom half of the pack simply because its much quicker. I get more range in the first 10 minutes of charging than I do in the next 20 minutes! A per session charge will encourage people to charge longer which will jam up the station. Already I have had to wait because someone else was already there several times. I have been lucky enough in that I did not have a time crunch and it was also a great way to meet fellow LEAFers but until the Fife and Lacey stations open up, Tumwater will remain pretty busy!

But recently Nissan announced that they will have a significant number of quick charge stations at LEAF dealerships within 60 days. First response to that was "60 days... in which year?"

Well, lets hope that Nissan, a major corporation can do a much better job than a small tech start up. Ok, Nissan; Ball's in your court!


  1. The driver usually stays with the car in these QC stations?

  2. I should go in and give him a couple bucks each time I charge!

  3. Herm; not sure what you are asking here. There is not really anywhere to go other than the convenience store at the gas station itself. Closest fast food is McDonalds but its a pretty long walk. probably 6-8 blocks at least

  4. I'm surprised where the stations are showing up, also wish the Volt could take a quick charge either CHADEMO or SAE, I'd pay for the retrofit. I'm loving that most stations I come across are free, but some are outrageously priced. $2.49 hr in a free parking lot!? In a free lot it needs to be a small profit over cost. In a paid lot waive my fee and charge it at the station, or make the station free or a very small amount over the parking fee. A full charge costs my employer $.75 and me at home $1.10.

    Hopefully the extended tax break for installations will increase the number of stations.