Monday, May 26, 2014

Public Charging Updates

A lot of positive buzz was generated when Nissan announced they would offer 2 years of free charging with a new program called EZ-Charge.  This provided access to 4 of the largest public charging companies in the U.S.  Blink,  Chargepoint, Aeroenvironment and NRG's eVgo.  Each company has strong representation in certain regions along with little or no presence in other areas of the country. We in the Northwest felt we got a good shake because we did get 3 of the 4 major players in the area involved with the new program with only SemaConnect not participating.  eVgo has nearly no presence here currently.

This means it was a big concern when Chargepoint announced that it was dropping out of the program citing heavy-handed tactics by eVgo as the reason.  Gone was the largest public charging company in the U.S and all due to actions of a public charging company that has no chargers within 500 miles of my home. (that is the farthest distance I can select on the eVgo website)

Now one might ask why I am so concerned about this? I have free charging at a Chargepoint nearest my home (Olympia Nissan) based on the fact that I got my 2013 there and this new program is for cars purchased/leased on April 1, 2014 and later so I missed the boat on that one too.  But Nissan also announced "special" pricing offer that will be announced on or about Aug, 1st that would included existing LEAF owners. Now it would be nice to have a single card and a single bill. A quick scan of my financial standing shows a balance of about $12 on my SemaConnect account (from $25 a few years ago I think) and I should have $20ish on my Chargepoint Account which also started at $25 last Decemeber.  It would be nice to put it all in one place and ALSO be provided a user friendly option for paying for a charge.  Chargepoint also had the advantage of being just that. Most of their chargers still billed by time which I think is the lesser evil especially against session charging.

Now there is still time before the actual launch of the program and maybe Nissan and Chargepoint can still figure out an acceptable way to be together in spite of eVgo's presence. (or non-presence as is the case here)  Now this would not only seem like a good thing but the right thing especially considering the deep partnership Nissan and Chargepoint already enjoy.  This is probably not the best solution but maybe a regional alliance is more applicable at least until these companies become nationwide. I would GLADLY accept SemaConnect in place of eVgo!

Last week, I received a survey about public charging and EVs in general. One of the questions asked who I thought should take lead in paying and installing and managing public charging stations.  the Feds, States and Public Charging companies were all options to select.

Now, I think that the very individualized distribution of EVs across the U.S. pretty much means the Feds would have a huge amount of pushback from oil revenue states, etc.  After all, wondering what LA was thinking when they found out some fed money was going to pay for charging stations to help out the Greenies on the West Coast?  Guessing they weren't too thrilled with that but then again, the total Fed contribution was so pathetically small that maybe they didn't even notice?  Its like grabbing some of your Daddy's change when you were a kid; how much can you take without him noticing? Ya, that pretty much nails it.

So, I feel that the States need to take a MUCH larger initiative getting public chargers out there. CA is taking the lead on putting in Hydrogen fueling stations but only because they know that no public company is willing to put out that much money and wait that long for a return (eventually it will happen...)

Now, Public EV charging is probably 3-25 years closer to having a viable business model over H2 but still does not ignore the fact that the attraction for private businesses is still down the road. So the option is throw more money at public charging companies running the very real risk they will take the money and spend it on locations we don't want and create policies we don't like (which is pretty much what has happened so far)

Public charging does have a huge amount of benefits so it is worth funding but the problem as I see it is that not all the benefits have direct financial implications.  Cleaner air, lower gas bills, etc are what we want so there is a TON of good things that can come out of public charging so maybe the States/Cities should take the lead. WA State which has no hydrocarbon resources would do well to reduce its gas bill. It is simply a HUGE cash drain going out of the state daily. Add to that the fact we have HUGE resources to generate electricity so every mile on electric is a direct benefit to the financial stability of the State.  Now, I have already written about this before and the states option does leave interstate travel up in the air and soon (within 1-2 years) Nissan's longer range LEAF will make those trips much easier to do so the current mish mash of public charging companies will still play a role.

The other thing we need to address is workplace charging and creating more laws to make charging viable.  Despite ICEing laws enacted in WA State, the problem still persists. As this article predicted, part of the problem is the STATION getting in compliance with the law.  The other issue is lack of people reporting violators,  reluctance by business owners to PO potential customers, etc.

So basically after 3½ years and despite great success here, a major attitude adjustment over EVs is still very much needed here.

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