How Not To Install An Electric-Car Charging Station: A Case Study

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Poorly-sited Blink charging point in Watsonville, CA (Image: Jack Brown)

Poorly-sited Blink charging point in Watsonville, CA (Image: Jack Brown)

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We've all seen those 'FAIL' pictures that turn up on the internet with startling regularity--tastelessly placed adverts in newspapers, security cameras facing blank walls, products with overly suggestive graphics... you know the deal.

Welcome to the latest in a long line of fails, spotted by of BMW ActiveE facebook group user, Jack Brown.

Jack posted a photo in the group of a Blink charger installed in downtown Watsonville, California. Nothing unusual about that, until you see how it's positioned.

We'll start from the top: It's the wrong way around. All the charging paraphernalia is on the side facing the sidewalk, rather than facing the vehicles that need to use it.

Secondly, it's a surprising distance from the curb--three feet or so. With a lamp post next to it it's unlikely that people would be walking in that small zone and trip over a charging cable draped between car and charging station, but it's still far enough away to make the cable a bit of a stretch to the ActiveE's rear-mounted charging port.

Parking in backwards would normally be the way to solve this, but as Jack notes, this would involve an unsafe and possibly illegal maneuver to slot into the spot. In fariness, it wouldn't be as much of an issue in an electric vehicle with a front-mounted port.

Also counting against the charging point--though not strictly the fault of those who installed it--is the fact it's seen a little vandalism in the form of graffiti.

That one is probably society's problem. But it's a little less pleasant for those using the charger, even so.

Kudos to Watsonville for having a place to charge electric cars, but this poorly-positioned example suggests whoever installed it didn't really think--or care--how it might be used.

Experienced any other poorly-installed charging stations? Share your experiences below.


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Comments (16)
  1. Don't let a little vandalism prevent you from charging. Often, unless the cable itself is gone or damaged, the station will still work. On Plugshare, at 9140 Rothbury Dr., Gaithersburg, MD, you can see pictures of a Blink that had its screen smashed, but still worked when I tried it.

  2. Amazing when you consider how many people had a hand in designing, permitting, constructing and final inspecting the installation. You'd almost think it was intentional, but then the question is... Why?

  3. Gotta love facing the wrong way.

  4. I've seen this pic on Brown's FB page. I'm in NYC (and with an all-electric Ford Focus) where we don't have a lot (or "any"?) public on-street charging spots from Blink or any other provider. However, I can say that it's NOT surprising that they would install the thing "backwards." In NYC, for example, they install the shared municipal parking meters so that you can use it (pay with a credit card, etc.) only if you are ON the sidewalk. So should the electronics of a public charging station be any different--i.e. facing the street vs. facing the sidewalk? And like ANY OTHER PUBLIC piece of infrastructure, the fact there is "vandalism" on the Blink charger? I suppose it will be "big news" to you when vandals completely trash them?

  5. This is one of several installed around Monterey and Santa Cruz counties from a group of grants and with the coooperation of the Electrical Workers Union (they have a free charging station at their main office in Castroville, Ca) I personally prefer standing on the sidewalk rather than the gutter while scanning my card to activate the station. These were installed in the early days and we are all very thankful to have them.

  6. Well, all plugin cars should move their plugs to the front of the car like the Leaf, IMHO...

  7. I'm in LA and I would like to purchase a plug-in hybrid but first I need to have a 240 V charger installed in the underground garage of my townhouse. However, I was informed by LADWP that I have to wait 4-7 WEEKS for a Service Inspector (known as an ESR) from LADWP to come assess my service before I can do that.
    There is only ONE person providing this service for all of LA county! That is simply ludicrous.
    How can we promote more green cars on the road if we have to wait that long to have an assessment?
    LADWP needs to hire more people to do this job. The poor lone person doing this job is backed up two months! Here is an opportunity for us to create a green job that is in dire need.

  8. The good news is, that one person from LADWP is *busy* doing these assessments. He wasn't so busy when I had mine put in. That means a lot more customers are adding chargers. Have a little patience as it will pay off. And meanwhile, you can charge using the level 1 charge cord that comes with your car while you wait

  9. Funny, because when I met with people from Ecotality, they promoted the fact that they did all kinds of studies about positioning and placement of equipment and would work with localities. It doesn't appear this was done.

  10. Wow, this certainly blew up more than I expected. I did meet the installer at a meeting last week. The positioning of the EVSE was due to American's with Dsabilities Act so it could not face the street, so I understand why it is facing the way it is. I think the issue is really the length of the cable provided. There should probably be a basis of using a vehicle the size of a Chevy Tahoe as an indicator being parked at least 18 inches from the curb and having a long enough cord to safely drop to the ground at the EVSE and at the charge port location when determining the length. THis one could have used another 6 to 7 feet. Hopefully the location can be upgraded in the future.

  11. The punks that feel the need to graffiti EV charging stations are most likely the idiots that went around for decades yanking hood emblems off of cars too.

  12. What seems like an incorrectly installed EVSE may be intentional. Did the media writer do the journalism to contact Blink and ask? This piece does not state so.

    Before this piece, I saw the private Blink EVSE than had been installed at the Menlo Park Facebook campus. It too was reversed from what most might think is the norm. But their may be a method to their madness. In the case of Facebook, IMO I think it looks better (and most likely their tight security will keep them from getting graffiti tagged like the imagine in the piece, as well as keeping only employees or 'business with Facebook' visitors using them (typical Silicon Valley SOP).

    BTW : if the Blink screen doesn't work, you can not sign in to use it.

  13. There are many more problems with this installation; the lack of physical barriers or physical protection should concern everyone as well. It's not uncommon to see accidents or incidents resulting in a vehicle jumping a parking stop and ending up in a building or running over someone. The high voltage used to power these devices are always active (on); in the event of vehicular impact sufficient enough to dislodge the charging station from its' mounting, it possible for the power supply to be exposed. Such exposure presents a serious safety hazard to anyone nearby (especially if water is present) and could cause a severe electrical shock or electrocution; an exposed electrical feed may also ground against the vehicle with the same result

  14. This is an unusable charging station. It is usually ICEd and the cable is too short for some vehicles, such as the Tesla S. Another thing, they charge $2/hr to charge, which is excessive. Paying for time rather than electricity? Would you feel comfortable with a gas station that charged by the minute rather than gallon?

  15. I just went to try this charging station in Watsonville. The cable won't reach the charging port on my Prius. You certainly cannot back into the diagonal parking spot. And...drum roll please...if you parallel park so the cable will reach, the front of your car is in the adjacent handicap parking space! No surprise this station wasn't being used when I pulled up to it.

  16. I don't have an opinion about this station, but there is one in Claremont, CA in a parking garage that has two heads, but one of the spaces is marked handicapped. Thus you cannot charge there unless you ALSO have a handicapped plate/sticker. That restricts the usage a lot.

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