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Collaboratev Project: 'Roaming' For Electric-Car Charging Stations

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Electric-car charging network cards, photo by Patrick Connor, Portland

Electric-car charging network cards, photo by Patrick Connor, Portland

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Electric-car charging stations are being added to more and more public parking lots, curbsides, corporate garages, and a host of other locations.

But as any electric-car driver can tell you, many of them are operated by specific networks. They often require drivers to have set up an account beforehand, and to validate their charging session with a special membership card.

In practice, that means drivers must set up multiple accounts with multiple charging-station networks--and carry up to seven cards, fobs, or other authentication devices to be able to use the majority of charge stations on their travels.

Now, two large networks of charging stations have formed a company to enable and promote interoperability--not only among their stations, but others as well.

In effect, that means that electric-car drivers will be able to join one network but "roam" among other networks of charging stations, just as mobile-phone users can move seamlessly among networks without having to know which company operates the one they're connecting through.

The new venture is called Collaboratev, and it's been founded by ChargePoint and Ecotality, which operates the Blink network.

Its goal is to enable a "seamless process" for electric-car drivers to charge across multiple networks.

Collaboratev hopes to establish common authentication credentials across the different networks now operating, and provide users with a single bill regardless of which network they charge on.

It will also aggregate data on charging behavior--very important for understanding how drivers use and recharge plug-in electric cars in the real world--across all participating networks.

A payment system across multiple vendors, said Pike Research analyst John Gartner, would "alleviate consumer concern [over] being tied to one charging netowrk, and therefore make electric vehicles more attractive to mainstream vehicle buyers."

The announcement came this morning from ChargePoint and Ecotality; more information will be available on the Collaboratev website.

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Comments (13)
  1. "Electric-car charging stations are being added to more and more public parking lots, curbsides, corporate garages, and a host of other locations."
     
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  2. @William: Errrr, yes, that's what the article says all right ...
     
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  3. Sounds great, various networks can join together to provide a seamless service. The more stress they can eliminate the more people will make the switch to electric.
     
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  4. Before: 2 cards in the glove-box, two independent (competing even) charging networks.
    After: 1 card in the glove-box, and a single point failure.

    Given that both Blink and Chargepoint won't let you charge even at free EVSEs if they fail to authenticate you, such consolidation, and the fact they'll try and extend it to other providers, is IMHO cause for more concern, not less.

    Blink certainly, and Chargepoint probably, are in the business of collecting data. Surely teaming up benefit both of them greatly. Their users? Not much if at all.

    We'll see what the new TOS and privacy policy say. The FAQ isn't very reassuring; e.g: "[other EVSEs] may be subject to an interoperability fee (similar to an out-of-network ATM fee)". Oh joy.
     
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  5. I imagine more "mergers and acquisitions" will happen before the market matures..
     
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  6. Just out of curiosity, why don't these charging stations just accept Visa, Mastercard and Amex? Is there a big benefit to issuing their own cards?

    Gas companies learned this a long time ago and I haven't used a dedicated gas card in a very long time.
     
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  7. @Joe: Both Ecotality and ChargePoint have gotten Federal subsidies for some of their installations, in exchange for which they gather real-world data on how often the cars recharge, how long, where, and when.

    I suspect that users being required to ID themselves through a membership makes that easier and the data cleaner.
     
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  8. Joe in most cases the amount of money you are talking about is around a dollar to charge a typical EV battery. Its more of a hassel to charge a dollar to a credit card. Most places, not all, will forgo the dollar and let you charge free if you "have one of their card" for ID purposes.
     
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  9. I will never use a remote charger until they start accepting Visa, MC, Discover, American Express.
     
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  10. Here some restaurants have ChargePoint charges and the restaurant foots the bill. You need the card to release the "nozzle" though!
     
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  11. My experience is ChargePoint has been a pleasure to use, Blink has been overpriced and less reliable. The most convenient by far is to charge at home. Even though I have two EV's my longer term plan is to stay with power trains like the Volt which can get you home without worrying about range and getting stiffed for electricity at three times the cost. There are going to be a lot more EV's than chargers at the current rate of adoption. Since all of 100% (Leaf) EV travel is local, virtually all my charging is done at stations I am familiar with and frequent regularly. The use of multiple cards is a bit annoying but not a big deal. It may be more important in the future as EV ranges improve, but for now it is a minor consideration.
     
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  12. Furthering the duopoly. This doesn't address a site owner being able to chose a software platform... you get locked into ChargePoint or Blink. All funded by the taxpayer.
     
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  13. I'm with others on this. I'm unimpressed that this upgrade will make electric charging only a little more difficult than using a gas station. I want it to be less difficult. Here's an idea... since you're hooking up your car to the charger, and since the charger is already receiving data from the car (rate, duration, others?), I'll bet that some unique ID of your car is also sent to the charger. Use that ID for billing so that you just plug in and go. Easier than gas! If an ID actually isn't being sent, then I was the first to say it, and I want a patent. :)
     
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