Over the last few years, we’ve heard, seen and read a lot of whoopla over the electric vehicle. One of the obstacles keeping the electric vehicle from flooding the market – aside from it’s higher than normal price – has always been, where do you charge it? How do you charge it? Do I need a special voltage? How much to charge it? How long does it take?
Some time back I wrote about the new Whole Foods Market solar panel display installed in South Miami Beach. At that time, the WF rep told me a charging station was coming as well. Guess what? It’s here.
Yes, Whole Foods Market in SoBe now has a charging station. But the unit arrived with little to no fanfare. In point of fact, the front-end customer service manager wasn’t even aware it was there until he saw cars charging.
Being the curious guy I am, I got on the phone with the media representative from Coulomb Technologies (pronounced cool-um) – the company whose name is on the unit – and asked after the obsequious addition to the parking lot.
And this, my fellow EV enthusiasts is where the story just gets better.
Whole Foods in South Beach isn’t the only lot which has a ChargePoint station. In front and to the side of the Morris Lapidus landmark called the Fontainebleau Hotel, there’s another one.
In fact, there are about 298 ChargePoint stations in Florida alone; about 8,500 world-wide. Apparently, Coulomb Technologies’ ChargePoint Stations are filling the much needed gap in an electric car infrastructure. And Coulomb provides an app for the iPhone/iPad, Android and Blackberry. This app allows you to find various charging locals, types of stations, cost of charging, reserve a station and see their availability in real-time. The app can also tell you what level the station provides. (More on that later)
Now I know many are thinking: How does this work?
I spoke with the founder and CTO of Coulomb, Richard Lowenthal. He mentioned that if you are thinking about purchasing an electric vehicle, you shouldn’t have to worry about charging. ‘So, we’re about insuring there is an adequate charging infrastructure out there in the world to support people who want to drive electric vehicles. The way we do that is by creating business models for people to deploy charging stations.’
Three quarters of their engineering is spent on not just hardware, but business software such as a billing system, apps, the ability of the station owner to regulate who can use the station and who cannot. And the owners can be a vast swath of various companies, from stores, hotels, private lots, public lots and Home Owners Associations.
That means if you live in a condo, your HOA can provide you with charging while creating income revenue as well. Costs are determined by the owners; some are free and some are not. Coulomb simply cuts a check to the owner once a month; so in essence they handle the payroll and collection for you. Nice.
More to the business model, Coulomb provides a network cloud which station owners can tweak or set pricing and availability. They provide the hardware and third-party installers for home stations and public stations as well.
Coulomb partners with CarCharging, Inc. These guys are the installer of choice here in South Florida. On their site, you see there are two ways to initiate use of the EV charging stations. The best way is to sign up for an evCharge card. They’ll send you a small card that you can attach to your key chain. It is used to unlock the station. It communicates wirelessly to the station, so all you have to do is wave the card near the front of the station to unlock the nozzle. The screen on the station indicates the cost of the charging session. Please note that each station’s fees are different and vary from location to location. The advantage of the evCharge card is that the fees are charged directly to your account.
The second option is to pay by credit card for each session. This requires you to call the 800# that is located on the station, and to provide your credit card information to the customer service representative. Since each EV station is connected to a network, the customer service representative can then remotely unlock the station for your use.
With either of the payment options, once the nozzle is removed from your vehicle and returned to the station (it is locked in place once you hear a clicking noise), the session is immediately stopped and the transaction is completed.
Level 1 & 2 Stations: The ChargePoint Stations use two types of connectors. The most obvious is what they call a level 2, J1772 SAE five-prong connector. This is designed to deliver 240V @ 30Amps – about 3-4 hrs to 100% DOC; and its industry standard. It will work on almost all new electric cars; except the Tesla series. You’ll need an adapter plug; easily obtained from the dealership.
ChargePoint also provides a standard three-prong 120V @ 12-15Amp outlet (Level 1—about 6-8 hrs to 100% DOC). The same kind you’d see in your house. A level 3 or DC output is still in the makes. It’s a much higher voltage and I suspect sufficient testing on input over battery life and standardized fittings have not been established.
Finally, I’ve included a link to a wonderful article which shows you the various EVs on the market today. From this, you’ll get a better idea of your choices now and in the near future.
So, worrying about where to charge your EV is no longer a negative point; the point of charge is ChargePoint.