October 2010 Archives

An End to the Dark Ages of EV Charging

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I had the opportunity to test out another ChargePoint charging station today. I was more prepared than I was the first time, so I got to try out the whole experience. I'm so pleased to see the future of electric vehicle charging. I'm not going to miss charging at RV parks at all.

This time, I had my access card activated and attached to my ChargePoint account. The easiest way to do this is to go to www.mychargepoint.net, sign up for an account and order a card. It's best to do this well in advance of wanting to charge. (Other charging station companies may offer similar functionality, but so far I've only been able to try out ChargePoint chargers installed by Charge Northwest and EV Support.)

I also downloaded the ChargePoint App to my iPhone and logged into my account.

Step one in the charging process is to locate a charging station. This can be done with the iPhone app or through the ChargePoint Find Stations web page. Not only can you find stations, you can check to see if they are functioning and available.

When I arrived at the charging station, I removed the J1772 cord from the station by sliding the silver button back to release the catch.

charge_cord.jpg

Next I plugged the cord into the car. My car requires a plug adapter, which doesn't yet exist, so Cathy and I hacked one together. Modern EVs will just have the right receptacle on the car, so you won't have to fool around with the ludicrous cable adapter shown here.

ready_to_charge.jpg
(photo courtesy of Michelle Billmaier)


To start the charging session, the user either places the ChargePoint card against the labeled spot on the charger (as shown above), or taps the pin for that station on the iPhone and then taps the start button. Theoretically, you don't even need to carry the ChargePoint access card, but it seems like a good idea just in case you can't get cell reception.

start_session.jpg

After starting the session, refreshing the screen will show the pin has changed colors from green to blue so that other EV drivers can tell that it's in use. Tapping on the pin will show that the start button has changed to a stop button. (Tapping the yellow button will show driving directions to the charging station.)

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Checking the car's info screen shows that the charge is underway.

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In the old days, when we took an electric vehicle on a road trip, we had to charge from outlets at RV parks and were confronted with an unpleasant problem...

Once you get the charge started, it's pretty boring: the car charges while you watch. You'd like to leave the car and go do something more interesting than watch it charge, but if you do that you risk having the charge stop early (like 5 minutes after you walk away) because of some problem. Maybe the breaker popped, or something interrupted the power briefly, any number of things. When you come back, perhaps hours later, you're not happy to find the car is still in the same state of charge as when you left, so now you have to do it again, and this time you're going to babysit it the whole time.

This is where using networked chargers designed for this purpose really shines.

If you're charging from a ChargePoint charger, you can check your charge session's status either from the iPhone app, or through a web browser (perhaps at a cafe, or in your "kabin" room).

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Wait though, it gets even better.

Suppose the more interesting thing you want to do is sleep, because you've been driving all day. It's not very convenient to check the session status every few minutes while you're trying to sleep. Even if you're eating dinner or surfing the web, you don't really want to constantly check your charge session. (See how quickly we get spoiled? Previously, there was no way to check the charging without being at the car, and yet now we don't want to have to bother with refreshing the screen on our iPhone.)

You can configure your ChargePoint account so that you get a text message or email for any or all of four events: charge completed, charger unplugged, ground fault error, or over current error.

To test this, I unplugged the cable from the car while it was charging. Shortly after that, I got a text message:

text_message.jpg
The only thing cooler than getting that message is knowing that not getting that message means your charge is still running.

And so we see the start of a new era and the end of the dark ages of EV charging.

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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