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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

ActiveE Part Duex!

Back on January 13th, 2012 I picked up the first ActiveE at a nice handover ceremony held at BMW's North American headquarters in Woodcliff Lake, NJ.
Getting an ActiveE was so much fun last year, I decided to do it again! We'll, that's not exactly the case, but I am getting another ActiveE tomorrow. The real reason I 'm getting a second ActiveE now is because six weeks ago I was unfortunately involved in a bad accident and my ActiveE was declared totaled.

In the interim I have been driving my Toyota Tacoma pick up which usually gets very little use. On one hand it was good to give it some use, but for the first time in over four years I've been driving a gasser every day and I have quickly been reminded how expensive gasoline is! I drive a lot and put over 53,000 miles on my ActiveE in the 19 months I had it so I drive nearly 100 miles a day. I've needed to refill the Toyota every four to 5 days and at $60 a clip it has added up to a lot of money even in this short period of time. I figure I've spent about $350 so far and I didn't even drive much initially after the accident. If I had my ActiveE I would have spent about $100 in electricity over the same period. It's really easy to see how high mileage drivers can quickly recoup the higher initial cost of some electric cars by the fuel savings alone.

Plugged in at home
I've really missed the smooth, quiet driving experience of an EV, and it's been strange going to gas stations so often again. I definitely look forward to pulling into the garage and plugging again when I arrive home at night. Funny how many people who have never owned an electric vehicle think plugging in will be such an onerous task, but experienced EV drivers like doing so, and really prefer it to going to gas stations. I know nobody likes going to gas stations, so I don't know why some people aren't jumping on the opportunity to relieve themselves of ever doing it again. Perhaps it's just a case of  "the devil you know".

Next post: Pictures of my new ActiveE and other electric cars from our North Jersey National plug in Day event at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, NJ. Stop by to check out the cars and say hi if you are in the area. The event is this Sunday from 10:00am to 4:00pm.

Monday, September 23, 2013

National Plug In Day Approaches

The third annual National Plug in Day is being held this weekend. The event has grown so much in the past two years that it's being spread over two days this year, (Saturday, September 28th & Sunday, September 29th) to accommodate more people that want to attend. Perhaps we'll have to change the name to National Plug In Weekend in the future!

National Plug in Day began in 2011 and was held in only a small handful of cities. It was an opportunity for owners of plug in cars to gather to display their cars and to talk to people interested in them. This year there will be about 100 different events spread around the country and even one in the UK! We'll have tens of thousands of people in combined attendance and well over 1,000 cars on display.  
My MINI-E on display at the 2011 Plug In Day event in New York City.

That's not surprising as more and more people are buying cars with plugs. In 2010 there were less than 1,000 plug in cars sold in the US. Then in 2011 that number jumped up to over 17,000 and in 2012 over 50,000 plug in cars were bought or leased in the US. Through the first eight months of 2013 we have already surpassed 2012's total and are on pace to come close to 100,000 plug in vehicle sales this year. It's true that number represents a very small percentage of overall automobile purchases, but it's also very clear the plug-in car movement is gaining traction.

So if you have a plug-in car, make sure to check out the official Plug in Day website to see where the closest event is being held and bring you car for the afternoon. They'll be plenty of curious onlookers there so make sure you're ready to tell them how much you love driving electric. If you don't have a plug in car, please come also. You can check out the cars, ask actual owners any questions you have and maybe even get to take one for a drive. I'll be at the North Jersey event at Liberty Science Center in Jersey City so if you're in the area, stop by and say hello. Our event is on Sunday, 9/29 from 10:00 am till 4:00pm. I hope to see you there!  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Chargepoint Introduces Their Next Generation Public EVSE's

The recently released ChargePoint Ct 4021 will very likely be the most desirable public charging station on the market

Since I still haven't gotten a replacement for my ActiveE (stay tuned because that will change soon!), I thought it would be a good time to do a post about the new line of charging equipment from ChargePoint. I frequently have people reach out to me for advice on charging equipment for home and for public charging and I am a big fan of ChargePoint and ClipperCreek for that matter. However ChargePoint has recently unveiled their new family of CT4000 public chargers and they are worth checking out. According to their website, ChargePoint is the largest of electric vehicle charging locations worldwide. They have over 13,200 charging stations deployed and have completed nearly 3,000,000 electric vehicle charging sessions. I personally account for about 1,500 of those charging sessions as I have a ChargePoint CT500 EVSE at my home and a CT 2100 public charger at my restaurant in Montclair, NJ.

The CT2100 at my restaurant
The holster broken off
I have been very pleased with both units, and neither has had a single problem in the year and a half I have had them. The only thing I could really complain about was how the CT2100 holster for the connector was attached to the side of the unit. The holster cap was plastic and if a 'curious' passerby decided they really wanted to grab the connector and pull it hard while it was locked in the holster, they could break the plastic holster off the side of the unit. I know this from personal experience as I had some curious teenagers do just that and it cost me $300 to replace the holster. So I was pretty happy when I saw the new design which eliminated the side holster. When not in use, the connectors now plug into the center of the unit. I believe this is a much better, more robust design.

A Volt charging on Nauna's CT2100
However the improvements don't end there. The units now have customizable video and branding options with a 5.7-inch color LCD screen that allows station owners to run their own video content. They also feature built-in signage that is easily replaceable with custom branding. This is very important. Public charging stations need ancillary support outside of the revenue stream of charging for the electric in order to be a profitable venture. By allowing the station manager to advertise on the stations, they can attract additional revenue and subsidize the expense of buying, installing and maintaining the stations. Electricity is inexpensive and electric vehicle drivers won't pay much more for it at a public station than they do at home. Sure they'll agree to pay a little more for the convenience of charging in public, but if the rates are too high people simply won't use the station. By offering the station manager an additional revenue stream, they can charge lower rates for charging and still recoup their investment.over time.  

A new CT4021 in the wild!
The new stations also have what ChargePoint calls Clean Cord Technology. It's maintenance-free, light-weight, self-retracting cords come standard on all models. This keeps the cable from being left on the ground by an inconsiderate EV driver after they've used it. It's unfortunate, but I can tell you that happens a lot and I have to walk out to the parking lot and coil up the cable myself after someone left it lying on the pavement. Another feature the new stations have is that they have the ability to share power between the two connectors if needed. That means the station owner can use a single 40amp feed to power the station and it can still charge two cars on 240/208v. The previous versions like I have could not do that; you would need to run two 40amp feeds to charge two cars on 240v or 208v at the same time. The only downside to this is if you do use one feed to charge two cars then they will charge at a slower rate since they are sharing power. Station managers need to have proper signage if they have a single feed powering two connectors so the EV driver knows they may get reduced power if someone plugs in while they are charging. This will not effect most PHEV vehicles like the Chevy Volt or Ford C-Max since they charge at 3.3kWs and even if they were power sharing on a CT 4021 they would both get the maximum 3.3kWs they can charge at.  I would still recommend new installations to use two 40amp feeds and allow both connectors to charge at the higher rate, but if the feed is already there, and the owner doesn't want to incur the expense of trenching, and running a second cable then this is a good way to allow more cars to plug in without adding much cost.

All this adds up to a much improved EVSE, which is the best option available for networked public charging today in my opinion. Add that to the great service ChargePoint has always provided and it's easy to see why ChargePoint seems to be pulling ahead of the others in the relatively new world of electric vehicle charging.