Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Inconvenience of Public Charging

This picture may not be too clear but as I was walking (padding my Fitbit numbers!) the other day at Marathon Park in Oly, I came upon this guy who had his cellphone plugged into the light pole.  Now a scene like this at the airport is pretty common and accepted but here?  Well at least it wasn't raining!

It is kinda funny how some types of "recharging" is much more acceptable than others. When you compare what we are willing to pay for that convenience (or not in the case above) its even funnier... in an odd sort of way.

Now since this is an Electric Vehicle Blog the title is bound to suggest its about my LEAF but "recharging" comes in several different forms and cars and cellphones only scratch the surface.

We recharge on the road all the time.  Be it fast food, Starbucks, the ultrarich indulgence of Dairy Queen, or power napping at a rest area; we do it simply because we demand satisfaction right now, simply don't want to cook, (that be me) we don't have time to go home,  or its a safety thing.

What I think really needs to happen is a reevaluation of the concept of public "charging" and what we are willing to pay in both time and money for that convenience or privilege (Ok, "I" think its a privilege to drive EV...)

So speed is essential, right?  Well, yeah... most of the time. But is it that essential when you don't have to be in attendance?  We all hate going to a restaurant and having to sit in the lobby for 15 minutes before being seated. Then its 3-5 mins for water, another 3-7 mins to put in the order then 8 to 21 mins waiting on the food and no, I did not pull those numbers off the top of my head.  But those are sit down restaurants that generally fall into two categories but the largest by far is the "destination" category. IOW, we are not out just driving around and suddenly got the munchies. It is something planned and frequently is the only thing we are doing on our journeys  away from home.  So time is not essential as much as the realization that we cannot do anything during those various wait times. It is the very reason why those times are so segmented that dictates we not "lose" our place in line.

Now fast food is much faster but it does have drawbacks anyone who has spilled something on their clothes (like is there anyone out there that hasn't?) will confirm.  The menu options alone require some compromise. I love Big Macs but sometimes I want spaghetti, pasta, meatballs and sauce!  Try eating that on I-5!  Of course, this can be avoided by eating the food at the establishment. Since I work on the road, I do fast food a lot, way more than I should.  In nearly all cases, I have 30 mins to eat from the time I leave work to when I return so fast has to be fast.  So sometimes its a question of finding fast food row, doing a quick browse into which drive thru line is reasonable and moving and so on.  Not always a good indication.  More than once I have gotten into a short line only to find out a short while later that it was short because people simply got tired of waiting and left the time for the establishment next door.

Now after driving EV for more than 8 years, I long since came to the realization that the "speed is essential" part mostly because its unplanned. We did not block out time in our day for that detour. Be it gas, recharging, food, etc.  So it falls into the category of "squeezing it in."

Recently I took a trip with my Son (8 years old with roughly 8 seconds of patience) that was 140 miles round trip in which 2 charging stops were incorporated.  Both were planned, neither felt like a delay, and in both cases, we waited almost no time at all.  Now, to be fair; the first charge was at a DCFC and I wanted to charge longer than the time I was there but another car came in so I decided to cut short my plan.  Our stop consisted of plugging in, using the bathroom and grabbing Hot Chocolate to go which we had done and returned to the car as the other LEAF arrived.  Despite 3 EV parking spaces and only one charging,  he had to wait a bit to park.

Luckily, it was a Walgreens with cars moving in and out rather quickly so he only had to wait a few minutes.  Either way, I left with a GID count of  215. (target was 240)

Now the "A" Plan was to plug in at our destination (Snoqualmie Falls) but that was not to be. It was a gorgeous day in the mid 40's without a cloud in the sky which means the place was PACKED!  So we parked in the overflow lot roughly 3 blocks from the nearest plug.

We spent about 90 minutes there enjoying the raging water and the mist (not so much) which was basically rain falling up which made the mid 40's temps feel like the mid 20's!  But the roughly 600 foot elevation change down and back up did a great job of building an appetite so we created plan B which was to head to town and find a place to recharge both us and the car!

There were 3 L2's in town and one just happened to be around the corner from a place to eat so we parked, walked roughly 1½ blocks, ate and returned 55 minutes later. Jumped in and drove home.  The key takeaway here is that we did not have to use extra time to do any recharging of the car due to our ability to

1) Walk away from the car

2) Use the time to address other needs

Which brings me back to the guy charging his phone.  Now this area does have benches because its quite normal and common for people who just want to sit and enjoy the scenery and the people... in Summer.  The day I took the pix it was December, temps in the low 40's and we two were the only ones there, so guessing his charging was not a "destination" event.

Finally, I do feel that Public charging is an extreme inconvenience when its not planned and because of my job, I do a lot of driving but frequently encounter situations where my 88 mile roundtrip completed successfully several times is not going to work due to weather, rain, traffic, etc... IOW; I have to make an unplanned stop which means finding a charger convenient to that stop which is difficult especially when traffic issues means that any detour (even one of just a few miles) is at least another 30 minutes added to my day which is why I drive at a pace that allows me to get to where I need to go without stopping. This is how much I hate "unplanned" public charging.  Planned Public Charging is simply a part of life no less important that spending time with my Son eating Ice Cream.

So next time you ask "How can you stand to drive 55?"  read this post.


  1. I agree that as an EV driver we do what we can to avoid unnecessary public charging.

    SOmetimes driving home from work Waze will alert me that it just found a faster route. The faster route may add 6 miles to my journey. I look at LEAFSpy Pro to estimate my range and compare that to the new route. Sometimes the new route means I would have to stop on the way home. So I get Waze to calculate the times for other routes. Often the saving in time is 2-3 minutes, not a big enough saving to warrant the 6 mile detour and rapid charge stop.

    If the time saving is over 10 minutes I take the new route.

    1. Yep, get that notification almost daily and ya, sometimes its not a benefit although I will say I almost always take the advice

  2. 55 works for me! Sometimes I speed things up a bit when I see I have room to spare and am approaching The Dalles reliable and seldom used DCQC and need some of that Fred Meyer senor coffee.

    1. With the traffic I experience (some studies claim a 50% increase in average commute times in the Puget Sound Region in just the past 4 years) most of the time, "speed" is not an option!

  3. Good point: "speed is essential because its unplanned".
    This is profoundly true. Time is money. Therefore, the bill for fast charging should be a LOT higher than standard trickle charging. Can I get an "Amen"?

    1. AGREED!! WEll at least I can agree to making the time spent at a fast charger more valuable. I boycotted AV because of their "all you can abuse" pricing structure. I prefer a bill by the minute policy. So you can consider the electrons running in at 60-70 seconds/kwh under 50% SOC verses the 150-200 seconds/kwh over 80% SOC...