ElectroClassic EV
Classic Cars Reborn into the Electric Future

Charge the Charge

I just created a ChargePoint account online, which provides maps and access to public Level 1, 2 and 3 EV charging stations, reports the status of those stations, and even allows reserving a charger for given time slots. All of this can happen on-the-go using the ChargePoint smartphone app. The account includes an RFID ChargePass card that unlocks each charging station for use, and then automatically bills your credit card when the balance is low (although many institutional stations are still free). Membership costs nothing, but the ChargePass card runs $5.00 with a minimum deposit of $25.00 to fill it using a credit card assigned to the account. The RFID card itself arrives in the mail a couple weeks later.  Above is the account dashboard, which includes a charger map, contextual data for each station listed, personal EV charging status, and a power usage graph. Another handy feature includes text notification if any charging issues occur while you are away, such as the cord coming unplugged, the vehicle not charging, or the EV drawing too much current.

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Here is an actual ChargePoint network charging station, with a J1772 plug. I took this picture in a public parking garage in Burbank. These stations were so new they didn’t appear in the Google street view yet. There is a proximity sensor in the center of the charging station’s front panel that reads the RFID ChargePass card, and then releases the J plug from its holster. In some cases, the J plug can also be released by calling a service number printed right on the ChargePoint station. A common misconception is that the charging station itself is a battery charger, when in reality it just meters out electrons to the actual charger inside the car, like a gas pump. The EV’s internal charger then converts the AC provided by the plug to DC that the batteries can accept. The one exception is 440VDC quick charging, which dumps the DC right into the battery pack, but that’s for future discussion.

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Another charging option is the Blink Network, which is owned by ECOtality, a company that has been tapped by the Federal government to play a heavy part in the roll-out of our country’s EVSE infrastructure. They also offer private charging stations to home and business owners, which can be linked to the Internet to provide remote scheduling of charging times via smartphone, as well as deliver a host of useful information, including scheduling for optimum electricity rates. For a $30 yearly fee, Blink Plus members pay $1.00 per hour to charge their EV, including Level II charging at 220VAC. Blink membership also includes an RFID InCard, allowing access to the nationwide Blink charging network, which the Blink Mobile app helps users navigate. I jumped on their special web deal and snagged a membership with the $30 fee waived for 2012!

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Recargo is handy little free smartphone app that will point an EV owner to the nearest bank of charging stations. It won’t unlock them, tell whether they are occupied or not, or report the status of an EV’s charge cycle, but it will reflect whether a charging station is ChargePoint, Blink Network, or free. It also pulls down a healthy 5 stars in the Android Marketplace. There are a few others that are worth checking out, but are not rated as high, such as Electromaps, PlugShare, ChargeLocator, and CarStations.

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