Monday, May 11, 2015

You meet the nicest people in EV

A huge thanks to the person who helped Spark EV with two dogs at Mission Viejo Shops on May. 9, 2015 at 5:30 PM. If it weren't for you, I'll be thinking there's something wrong with my car and wasting time at the dealer in addition to wasting time sorting out eVgo card activation. I doubt you'll ever read this, but here's a toast with Corona for your generosity in helping a fellow man.

I took a trip from San Diego to North Orange County. It was 101 miles each way. Fast charge was a requirement for each leg of the trip. Happily, I made it there and back with both of my dogs, but not without issues.

Since I live about 2000 ft above sea level in San Diego, it was expected to use less energy going to OC. Therefore, I drove normally with the flow of traffic. I stopped at Mission Viejo "The Shops" to get quick charge using eVgo. This was my first time with CCS (SAE DCFC). But upon arrival, there were two other BMW i3 waiting to use the CCS charger. When I tried to use L2 charger while waiting, eVgo card would not work. Apparently, they had disabled my card when I asked them to activate it. Calling them got it going with L2 charger.

After about 45 minutes, it was my turn at DCFC. Once again, I called eVgo, but now it wouldn't work. eVgo rep told me that Spark EV has lots of problems with DCFC, maybe it was my Bluetooth problem, basically blaming everything else but eVgo. A person who charged before me lent me his card to try, and it worked. Then eVgo rep checks the record to find that my card is deactivated. While the rep was patient enough, shouldn't my account information be the first thing to check like the previous rep did? Points off for this particular eVgo rep.

After almost 1 hours of fudging around, it took about 10 minutes of charge to allow me to get to my destination. I did eventually make it to my destination, and hopefully eVgo will sort out my card issues on Monday. But I have to drive back on Sunday, so I dread having to go through this again. Due to confusion with card and skipping lunch, data was not taken on the drive to OC.

I find that these are going to be huge problems with EV.

1. This is a big one. If places have such waiting on DCFC, EVs might become victim of their own success. Waiting around 15 to 30 minutes per car if there's more than couple of cars waiting is not going to work. The problem is worse now, because BMW gives free charges to i3 owners. Nissan is starting similar program with Leaf, so if Leaf is using Chademo on combo charger, CCS cannot be used. Unless more fast chargers are built, hopefully, intelligently based on demand, giving free charges is a bad idea for everyone.

2. Number of accounts and cards you have to have with you. To have access to many stations, I have six accounts; my EV needs its own wallet to carry them. Worse, to use chargers in LA metro parking lots, one must have $7 key fob and only 3 hours are allowed per session. What if I need more charge or I cannot get back in 3 hours? Or, as in my case, I only need to use it once or twice a year? While not the end of the world, it isn't for faint of heart or not internet savvy. I doubt your grandma will be driving EV for more than 40 miles away from home or even buy one in the first place.

3. Pricing is not clear in many places, and some places are just outright too expensive (ie, $15/hour to charge at some dealers, and you won't know until you get there). I suppose one must pay outrageous fees when in a bind, but it leaves bad taste.


  1. Can you list all the types of accounts that you need for chargers? I'm considering getting my first EV (a Spark EV) and am a total newbie. I want to be ready on day one.

  2. I cover public chargers in another post.

    To summarize,

    Get the DC fast charge option. It is a must. Then you can get eVgo OTG plan to charge 70 miles in about 20 minutes, which practically eliminates range anxiety. Their rate is cheapest if you use DCFC.

    In so cal, you should also get Blink account, but avoid using them. They are very expensive and slow, but more widespread than any other. In case of emergency, you can use them. I only used them once before I knew about costs. Contrary to EV hype, charging from such expensive rate could cost you more money than gas cars that get 20 MPG.

    Also get Chargepoint. While their billing is not straightforward, it is another emergency charging in case Blink isn't available.

    Also get Greenlots. They are like Chargepoint (not straight forward billing), and many Kia dealers have them with DCFC.

    If there's no cost to joining others, it's better to have more accounts in case you need to charge when above aren't available. But if there's cost (ie, Semacharge, LA public transit), I'd skip it.