How Do Public Charging Stations Fit Into Better Place Service?

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Electric-car drivers in the U.S. are now asking, What is a fair price value for use of public Level 2 charging stations?

In the U.S. and Europe, multiple networks of charging-spot providers have proliferated. Some are or were free, others offer a variety of payment terms, authentication systems, and cards or fobs. Payments in advance, by PayPal, mobile phone, and other methods are all being tried.

In Israel, the Better Place electric-car service sees a different role for public Level 2 charging stations, given that it has set up its own networked system of home-charging and battery switch stations.

As a Better Place customer, my main source of recharging by far is a Level 2 charger installed at my home by Better Place. The bill for the electricity I use goes straight to Better Place: they own and maintain my home charger, which fills a totally depleted battery in my Renault Fluence ZE in about 7 hours.

As well as the Battery Switch Stations they're known for, Better Place is installing public Level 2 charging facilities all over Israel--located in public parking lots, malls, entertainment venues, and hotels. The spot design has even been recognised with an Industrial Designers Society of America award.

Some of these places allow free parking, others don't. As with home stations, Better Place provides the charge spots completely free to the property owner and supplies the electricity.

But unlike my home station's permanently attached cable with a J-1772 plug at the end, most public charging spots have no cable. Better Place customers get a suitable cable for these stations provided with each car, along with an RFID key-chain tag to swipe--which opens the charge port door to accept the cable.

VIDEO: Better Place Australia shows how to use a public charging spot

When the Better Place customer walks away from the car after locking it, both ends of the cable are locked into place. (This isn't the case for U.S. public charging.)

These public charging stations are included in the Oscar navigation system Better Place provides in its cars, letting owners find nearby charge spots as well as battery-switch stations.

Renault Fluence ZE charging at Better Place pubic charge spots in Israel [photo: Brian of London]

Renault Fluence ZE charging at Better Place pubic charge spots in Israel [photo: Brian of London]

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To reduce the threat that gasoline cars will park in charging spots, preventing electric-car owners from recharging, Better Place is now putting its stations in more remote parts of parking areas--lower levels, further from elevators, etc.

This is because Better Place can't tell public-parking operators to reserve the more convenient spots for relatively rare use by its customers. I've seen some lots block off one or two spots, but if the lot fills completely, they'll get used for whoever will pay to park there.

I've been able to ask the excellent Better Place customer service reps to phone ahead and ask that a spot be held for me, especially at hotels--but this is completely dependent on the owner of the parking spot.

The real value of the Level 2 chargers is that it lets customers skip a battery switch on longer journeys.

My best example is my 86-mile (140-km) round trip to Jerusalem, which includes a 2,600-ft (800m) climb and descent. If I were to start with a 100-percent battery charge and drive very carefully, it might be possible to squeeze that kind of distance out of the Fluence ZE--but it wouldn't be comfortable.

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Comments (10)
  1. Today, I had another experience where I asked (politely) a gasoline car owner to allow me to park at a public charging spot in a shopping mall parking lot. Unfortunately for her, this driver was the only one around the eight possible spaces potentially available for charging, but like the other Internal Combustion Engine(ICE) drivers gave no thought to the fact that this was a charge spot for an electric car. As soon as the woman understood what I needed, she moved her car and I thank her for this, I'd love to hear ideas on how to educate Israeli ICE drivers not to block EV charge spots, without having yet to resort to enacting ordinances and imposing fines.

  2. Maybe charger placement needs to be better? If one charger was accessible from two or more spaces perhaps the odds of getting a space would be better.

  3. They always install double chargers placed between two spots. Both spots can charge simultaneously. I don't think it would save much money to have only one wire between two spots. It's the installation work that costs, not whether the box has two sockets or one.

  4. I don't know what the final solution is but it would be nice is someone would figure it out sooner rather then later.

  5. Your not allowed to use an outlet! So if your car is about to die and your nowhere near a level 2 charger or swapping station you'd have to call a tow truck just because of a rule your forced to obey, that's stupid. On the other hand the locking charge cable is a very good idea I'd like to see locking cables become standard in all EVs. But I still don't care for the Better Place idea if I buy a car out right I don't want a mandatory subscription that dictates what I can do with my car and force me to pay fees for services that I don't need. Buying a charger and paying my electric bill isn't hard I don't need a service for that and I can live without swapping.

  6. Over on Google+ a Leaf owner was bewailing the lack of updates to his Nav system. What incentive do Nissan have to update it for him: he paid for his car, the only reason they have to update his computer is to prevent him moaning in public (which they haven't done).

    I wonder how much effort Tesla will put in to developing their systems for the Roadster now the S is here?

    You can rubbish the subscription from here till the end of time but most of the moaning I read about EVs is directly the result of the old car model of sell and forget.

    I sat in a meeting room with Shai Agassi and some "Champion" owners this week. ICING was a major discussion: Better Place, unlike Nissan or Tesla, have a real financial incentive to fix it!

  7. Some people just complain too much. When I bought my car I was well aware that it was a 2010 model. The next year automatic stop start was added to the 2011s, I would like to have had stop/start but it wasn't available when I bought so I couldn't complain. As for software my car's systems get updated when I go for my regular services, if an update is available. And I don't have a subscription for that it's just standard procedure and costs me nothing. A NAV update is nothing and beside I like some people have my iPhone's NAV and NAV apps to back me up and help plan my trips.

  8. So if you buy a Model S and import it to Israel, you cannot charge it freely at your home ? Sounds like Better Place has a monopoly then ? Those are never good.

  9. I would ask Better Place and they would sell me a charge spot and supply the electricity. They would make a very small mark up on it (it's a theoretical problem at present) but I will ask for a definitive answer next wek on what it would cost to use a non BP car on their network (without swaps of course).

    Govt policy mandates competition be allowed in but reality is everybody is waiting to see if BP are successful.

  10. Still it is madness requiring everyone to subscribe to a network. Whatæs wrong with putting up your own EVSE at home and charging from that ?

    And I do not think Better Place would install Tesla HPWCs ? So you'd be stuck at 16A or maybe 32A charging speed...

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