Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Blink's New "Parking" Fees

Soon Blink level two stations will begin charging for the time an EV is connected but not charging at the rate of 9 cents per minute after a 15 minute grace period. This new process will launch next Monday July 20, 2015.

In an email Blink stated;

Over the last year, we have heard from many EV drivers about how frustrating it is when an EV remains plugged in to the charger after it has completed charging and blocks other electric cars from charging. In an effort to address this issue, we are implementing Charger Occupancy fees on Blink-owned Level 2 EV charging stations. This means that after an EV has completed charging, if it remains connected to the charger for more than 15 minutes, then a Charger Occupancy fee of $0.08 per minute will be assessed until the connector is removed.

Ok, not sure what Blink is referring to since the only issue I am aware of as far as not having a place to charge is on the L3's.  Only a handful of locations don't have both and I only occasionally see any L2's in use at all.  Tahoma Market in Fife, WA is one of the busiest L3's in the area and Tahoma Market has made the decision to remove the L2's due to lack of use.

So where are these lines?  Gateway Park in downtown Olympia has 8 Blink L2's and I have never seen more than 3 in use at any one time. Granted, I don't drive past it much any more since moving 16 months ago, but still manage to swing thru the area every few months or so and usually see only the same Chevy Volt that I first saw there 3 years ago.

So again, it looks like a good idea poorly implemented on a network that was poorly planned to begin with.   Many L2's are positioned where moving the car after a short charge session is not possible. Park and Ride lots generally see cars there for 10 hours or more.  So that would be out.

Topping off a charge would also not be as convenient unless you happen to be close enough to be able to stop what you are doing and move the car.  See a movie and topping up most likely will not work.  Missing 10 minutes (that is a likely a best case scenario) near the end of a movie would really suck.

Add to that many stations can only service one parking space due to stations being aligned next to each other.  The stations should have been installed with access to a minimum of two spaces, 4 being the best option in a 2 by 2 grid.

So lots of issues with this new plan and although Blink thought it might be a revenue gain (occupancy fees plus greater turnover) I fear it will backlash on Blink causing even less usage on their lightly used L2 networks because they are simply less convenient.

But ICEing is an issue and people sitting at charging units for several hours or days is a real issue.  Parking enforcement has simply not worked. WA State has a ICEing violation on the books but it was poorly written and has never been enforced to my knowledge, and if it has, its definitely not widespread.

But is this the best solution?  Probably not. A quick poll of people who use Blink L2's on a semi regular basis found roughly half (of the 13 respondents) could go out and move their vehicles although most admit that there were times when it could be delayed by as much as an hour depending on what they had on their plate at the time.  A more frequent response is unplugging before the charge was complete during a break in their schedule.

Some stated they would likely not use Blink as much due to uncertainties with their jobs and all worked in the medical field. not sure if that is significant since most of the ones who said they could manage to move their cars also worked in the medical field.

Finally there were others who pretty much had to plug in somewhere and said this would likely affect their next purchase decision if other options did not manifest themselves. Many got their EVs because of the stations located at their work and making them very inconvenient without regard to demand. Providence Centralia has 2 L2 Blinks plus two 120 volt stations used for Providence LEAFs and the Blinks are very lightly used.  A few people do use them once in a while but no one does so on a daily basis.

Now, I like the idea but it needs a LOT of work.  Having slower L1 stations in the same location allows one to pick a charger based on how long the car will be parked not to mention more plugs! Besides, the Blink Network as mentioned before has not grown significantly in my area and it definitely needs to.

The other thing that might make this new charge work is changing the current rates L2's charge. At 49 cents per Kwh, an L3 is a reasonable deal. I love the ability to get only what I need for a few bucks.  This opens the station up for the next person and I am not paying unfair connection fees.  But 39 per kwh for L2 is way too high considering the speed of the charge.  Chargepoint and others at $1-2 an hour is a much better deal.

and finally; Remember ICEing? it is a real issue but this does absolutely NOTHING for gassers camping out since they don't have an account and can't plug in anyway!!

Blink; if you want to do it right, renegotiate your contracts with the host sites REQUIRING parking enforcement that prevents ICEing!

PS; Yes I realize some areas of California have so little plugs to service so many EVs that even Blink L2's are fought over but that does not change the fact that this new change does not help Blink with customer service or being competitive.

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