There's been a lot of discussion and consideration given to the topic of public charging stations for electric vehicles. The old "chicken verses egg" conundrum is called to mind as auto makers and politicians seem to fumble around without really knowing what to do and where to allocate funds.
Will people buy electric cars without a complex network of public charging points available? Why should we invest in these charging stations if there really are aren't any electric cars on the roads yet? Shouldn't we wait to see if the public actually buys these cars before we spend tens of millions of dollars to make sure they can charge them?
Public Charging Station for electric cars, courtesy Mitsubishi Motors
These are all legitimate questions and I know why people are asking them. There is a tremendous amount of optimism for the upcoming wave of battery electric vehicles and supporters want to make sure we get it right.
The problem is, there is no consensus on just how to do it.
Some want to spend a lot of money on a select few markets to build out a complex network of public charging stations to use as an example and to help the rapid deployment of EV's in those specific markets. Some think it's better to concentrate on quick charge level 3 chargers on major highways and interstates. Others think we should install chargers as the demand increases and analyize market by market based on the number of EV sales there.
Mini E electric vehicle - battery charge gauge shows charge and range falling, percent by percent
However, the one thing I don't see a lot of is input from people that actually have real life EV experience. Wouldn't you think it would make sense to ask actual EV owners what they think of public charging and how they would or wouldn't use them if they were available? I think many people might be surprised what we have to say.
I have been driving a MINI-E for the past 13 months now and have had the opportunity to talk to many other EV owners & lessees. Most agree they really aren't compromised by the lack of public charging stations.
I'm not saying we wouldn't use them if they were available, just that for the most part they aren't absolutely necessary for EV deployment.
I have 36,000 miles on my MINI-E after 13 months of use and I have never used a public charging station. The reason I haven't is because there are none in New Jersey and I've done just fine without them.
Would I have used them if they were here? Probably, but the lack of them hasn't prevented me from using the car as my daily transportation one bit.
By far the majority of charging will take place at home and overnight. I would venture to guess as much as 75-80% of charging will be at home. After that I think the most important 2nd charge point would be at your place of work. I installed a charger myself at my job and my car charges while I work. This allows me leave work with a fully charged car every day in case I need to go somewhere before I return home.
What may be overlooked is allowing private enterprise pick up much of the tab. I'm sure businesses like McDonald's and Wal-Mart will be quick to install chargers themselves as they will want to have a "captured customer" while they charge their car up. Shopping malls will install them as will movie theaters and other shopping destinations. All of these locations need to be considered before public funds are allocated and possibly wasted.
All I'm saying is there are people out there with lots of experience living with an EV and I think it would be a shame if they weren't tapped to offer their perspective on how, where and how many charging stations are needed. I'm sure we can do more while spending less if the right questions are asked and the right people are involved.
EVs aren't for everybody so we shouldn't focus on trying to make them work for the percentage of the population that really shouldn't be driving them. Until we have EV's with ranges that stretch into the hundreds of miles they simply won't work for some folks and no amount of charge stations will make that change.
However there are plenty of people that a 100-mile BEV would fit perfectly into their lifestyle and these people will probably use public charging a lot less than many people think.