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Electric-Car Charger Congestion...At Least In California

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Electric cars at charging stations at Disney Family Museum, San Francisco [photo: Wendy Bartlett]

Electric cars at charging stations at Disney Family Museum, San Francisco [photo: Wendy Bartlett]

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Electric cars aren't evenly distributed across the U.S. By far the largest single market for them is California.

And in a sign of increasing adoption rates--there are now roughly 75,000 plug-in cars on the nation's roads--some electric-car drivers are facing a new problem.

Charging stations in public parking lots are now sometimes fully occupied, meaning they can't recharge their cars' batteries.

Photos on Facebook show rows of occupied charging stations, including at a Gilroy, Cailfornia, site where Tesla Model S owners can use the company's SuperCharger network of quick-charging stations adjoining a set of conventional 240-Volt Level 2 charging stations.

Last month analyst and Chevrolet Volt owner Anton Wahlman published an article on The Street warning that "charger congestion" could replace range anxiety as the latest concern for drivers.

"Sounds great to me," responded electric-car advocate Brad Berman in an article facetiously titled "There Are Too Many Electric Cars" on Plug-In Cars. "Bring it on."

Calling this so-called calamity "the best news I've heard in a long time," Berman writes:

This is exactly the “problem” we want to have. If the marketplace sees that there are not enough chargers for all the [electric cars], I’m confident that charging infrastructure companies, municipalities, and [electric car] organizations will jump in with more chargers.

Right now, there are approximately 10,000 public charging stations in the U.S. By the end of this year, that number could be as high as 50,000.

Berman also points out that only a minority of plug-in cars on the road are battery-electric vehicles that must recharge to travel.

The rest are plug-in hybrids or range-extended electric vehicles, both of which have gasoline engines that act as backups after the battery pack is depleted.

Already there's been some grumbling from battery-electric car owners about charging stations being "hogged" by plugged-in Chevrolet Volts or Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrids.

Electric cars at charging stations and Tesla SuperCharger stations in Gilroy, CA [photo: Jack Brown]

Electric cars at charging stations and Tesla SuperCharger stations in Gilroy, CA [photo: Jack Brown]

Enlarge Photo

But down the road, electric-car advocates expect that charging station networks will begin to offer "reservations" for future charging time slots.

That way, an electric car--knowing during a journey that its battery was becoming depleted--could ask the owner if it should make a reservation to recharge at a location near the route it was traveling on.

While that won't be ubiquitous for many years, it's the best way to allocate a scare resource fairly.

Whether battery-electric cars get priority over plug-in hybrids, of course, is a different question.

It's always a good idea to carry a plug-in car's 110-Volt charging cord, just in case.

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Comments (13)
  1. I've owned a Volt and a Model S and I bought them both to drive on electricity, not gas.

    I felt a lot more need to charge with my Volt, because the battery is so small. With the Volt I usually would plug in twice a day to stay on electricity. By comparison, that never happens with my Model S.

    The idea that a Volt driver doesn't deserve access to charging infrastructure is bogus. You could say a PHEV driver never needs to plug in, but since he paid a premium to have a cord and a battery, he probably wants to use them. We need enough charging for all plug-in cars.

    You might want to discount me though - my company sells EVSE and EVSE services.
     
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  2. As a BEV driver, I do not begrudge you your right to use the charger. However, I do grumble at PHEV (and BEV) drivers that stay plugged in after their packs are full. Sure, 10 minutes is not a big deal, but some drivers stay plugged in for the entire workday. Come on folks, we have to share!
     
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  3. Yes! Share!

    Unfortunately it looks like these ev charging parking spots in the pic n most older ev charging parking spots have one charger per parking spot. That makes sense at shopping centers and other locations where ev drivers are likely to be parked only a short time before they depart.

    At work, more then one ev charging parking spot per charger makes sense...with a looong charging cable. My work parking structure has had two chargers for two parking spots for a number of years. A few months ago they repainted the adjacent 3 parking spots to be ev only charging parking spots as well raising our total to 5 spots for 2 chargers. It works fine cause we switch off during the day when each ev is fully charged. Plug in hybrids there too
     
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  4. However all 5 spots can be used now cause there are five plug in vehicles now owned by staff...we need more ev chargers already....probably another location in our parking area with at least two more chargers available to charge at least 4 evs in ev only parking spots.
     
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  5. At public locations I agree that PHEV's and BEV's should have equal access. Most public locations we stop at are for short durations, so both vehicle types get an equal charge/equal benefit.

    Work is somewhat different. A person contemplating a EV purchase may buy a BEV based on the fact they can charge at work. If they are shut-out by PHEV's then they may not have the means to make the journey home. At workplaces with multiple EV owners I believe there should be a few EVSE's set aside for BEV's only.

    However it's not easy to implement/police.
    Some workplaces are public locations, the staff have every right to own an EV as well.
     
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  6. Another problem is those so called public charging stations aren't well located.

    The most important charging stations should be located at work places, movie theaters, shopping malls, hospitals, library and along the hwys.

    Setting up a L2 charger in front of Walgreens is nice but pretty much useless...

    Most work places only need a L1 or L2 chargers. Along major hwy, we need fast charging DC chargers along with high power L2 chargers.

    The deployment of the chargers are far from perfect.

    As far as "hogging" the stations go, Volt still uses power when the battery is full if the temperature is extreme. So, I will cut it some slacks. Other PHEVs aren't the same. But the worst is taking up spots without charging... That is NOT okay
     
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  7. I agree that the placement of the L2 chargers is sub-optimal. It puzzled me that the EVProject got this so wrong. They did have logic behind the placements at MacDonalds, resturants etc. Unfortunately their logic was flawed.

    The EVProject studied peoples driving habits, and found to their surprise that drivers are willing to drive further to recreational locations than to work. So their logic was the chargers would need to be placed at the recreational locations. What they missed in their analysis is that one maybe wiling to drive twice as far to a restaurant as work, but you spend a much smaller time parked at that location compared to work.

    A car can only be charged while its parked. Hours parked is more important than miles driven.
     
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  8. I agree, the placement of the chargers should correlate with the amount of the time the plugin car is potentially "parked" there...

    Work, 8 hours,
    Movie theater and restaurant (except for fast food), 2-3 hours.
    Hospital and library, 1 hour to 3 hours.
    Large shopping malls, 30 mins to 2 hours.
    Parks and Zoo, 2-4 hours.
    Sports stadium, 2-5 hours.

    School and Colleges (for public), 1-4 hours.

    Government offices (for public), 30 mins to 2 hours.

    small shops and grocery store, 30 mins

    Any long term parking garage, days...
    Any short term parking garage, less than 2 hours

    Hotels, 12 hours or more...


    So, for the longer time area, cheaper L1 and/or 3.3KW L2.
    for the mid range, install L2.
    for shorter time less than 1 hour, install DC/L3.
     
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  9. @JP

    I think you misunderstand how the EVSE units were placed for the EV Project. The EVSE hosts got a free unit, but they have to agree to do so. More importantly, the DOE wanted public units, not units that are only open to a given set of employees.

    You might want to make sure of your facts before you criticize such an important program for EV adoption.
     
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  10. "Whether battery-electric cars get priority over plug-in hybrids, of course, is a different question"

    Once it is a "pay" station, then all problem will be solved.

    Charge by KWh hour and then charge a "parking rate" once the battery is full and current draw is low so it can penalize the "hog" for leaving the car there all day.
     
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  11. In most places in the U.S., only utilities can charge by the kWh. Charging by the hour is the best way to get people moving after they charge.
     
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  12. The Feds incentivize electric cars because very little demand exists in the free market. Now that they exist in significant numbers in CA, they want municipalities to pony up funds for chargers. I love liberals...they waste tax payer-money to create an artificial market and then expect tax-payers to pony up additional taxes on a local level to support the “market demand” for government peddled “products”.
     
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  13. What trumps it all is states like Virginia see these government sponsored products as threats to state level revenue and want to slap additional taxes on the electric vehicles. There is an awful lot of government meddling surrounding electric cars.
     
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