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Daddy, did you need to buy an electric car? (svedic.org)
58 points by ZeljkoS 9 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 23 comments

For a time while working at a Bay Area tech company I had a Chevy Volt. I parked in a city-owned garage with a charger, but the charge fee per mile of range worked out to be about the same as the cost of gasoline. So I tried to take advantage of chargers provided at work.

Employees who used the chargers were encouraged to join an email list. The tone of this list was incredibly negative, with constant bickering about the lack of free chargers and cars left plugged in too long. Tesla owners could hog a charger for the whole day while poor Leaf owners would be anxious about making it home.

Eventually I wrote a little script that would scrape the ChargePoint API to tell me when chargers became available, which I kept as a well-guarded superpower.

Overall the experience of driving an electric vehicle without having a dedicated, personal charger was a considerable headache.

That is a jerk thing for the Tesla owners to do, but that's also something that I think it a bit silly for the other EV owners to have not expected: you should at least be able to round-trip from your home to your work. What if there's a power outage? what if traffic is worse than you expect and you're stuck on the road for longer? what if people in your garage are being a jerk and aren't sharing the plugs?

Granted, it's significantly more inefficient for everyone to have this reserve capacity and not use it all the time, and people should be conscientious enough to share the limited infrastructure.

Is there a way this could have been brought up to manglement or something similar? Or a friendly suggestion to the group? ("Hey, if you don't absolutely need to charge, please leave your phone number in the window, so others who need the charger can call & safely unplug your car" etc etc)

> That is a jerk thing for the Tesla owners to do

Is it though? Vehicle owners are classically used to leaving their cars parked until the next time that they are needed. For people to recognize that there are insufficient chargers to the point that it becomes socially valuable for people to stop what they are doing once their battery is topped off and head to their vehicle to unplug is a pretty significant behavior change.

How does this compare to the US? It sounds like there's no way to pay cash, or just use a credit card and go at any of these stations. Using an app, and requiring and account to do this is idiotic and will just end up leaving you stranded like this guy. If a gas station required me to have an account and app to gas up my car, I would tell them to screw off and never go there again.

Right; if these stations all have RFID readers already, why can’t they at least accept contactless payments the same way any normal payment terminal or gas pump would?

I like the idea of having an EV in theory, but not if it’s going to be a hassle to pay for electricity even when it’s sitting in front of a charger.

user toomuchtodo mentioned this already, but the short version is the US doesn't suffer from the balkanization of charging providers as much. I also own a Tesla, so that balkanization is further reduced.

The longer version is that free level 2 charging is reasonably common, at least in my experience in the midwest, and Tesla superchargers are phenomenally easy to use and quite prevalent. Level 2's that aren't free are generally either (a) owned by a parking garage and factored into the cost of parking, or (b) payable via chargepoint. Every level2 I've seen in the states has had its own cable and a j1772 connector. I know ChAdEMO chargers exist, but I have yet to see a level2 one personally. (Level3 ChAdEMOs require an adapter for use with Teslas.)

Additionally, all those are things I made a point of learning before I bought a vehicle that has non-standard (compared to gas) fueling methods. I have aboslutely run into non-ideal conditions: during a trip to Michigan's upper peninsula I had to leave my car in a lot for ~9 hours to charge off a free level 2 charger, since there was no Tesla supercharger in the region. (One is slated to be installed this year, though I wouldn't be surprised if that got delayed.) The chargers I have to pay for are 'in the city', so to speak, and as such are in range of high-speed mobile data even on my crap network.

Overall, I partially blame the author for not researching ahead of time what difficulties they may run into, and partially blame EV charging infra manufacturers for balkanizing charging standards so much.

My primary experience has been with ElectrifyAmerica (Volkswagen), and they have both an rfid reader for their cards, you can activate it with their app (both of which costs less if you pay the $4/mo. membership), and there's a standard contactless/emv/stripe card reader.

The only struggle I've had is when they charge slower than they're supposed to since they bill you per minute.

The US has similar issues. I've been stranded in California in the past, unable to fill up a gas car because it wouldn't accept my UK credit cards and cash wasn't an option.

Disclaimer: We own several Teslas, US-specific.

With Tesla Superchargers, it's automatic. You pull up, you plug in, you charge, and your credit card on file with Tesla is automatically charged as soon as you stop the charging session (whether in the app for your vehicle, pressing the button on the Supercharger handle, or in the vehicle on the control/display panel). You're never more than ~100 miles away from a Supercharger station [1].

With ChargePoint stations (rarely used), I swipe an RFID card or the app on my iPhone/Apple Watch, which authorizes the charge with a J1772 adapter. Super simple, have never had a problem. Many businesses provide Tesla destination chargers or J1772 chargers (or both in some cases) that require no auth to pay, the power is free.

I have not encountered anyone who minded tapping an RFID card, phone, or watch at a Chargepoint station; it is no different than using Apple Pay to pay for fuel. These are solved problems from a payment infrastructure perspective, it's just going to take time to shake out as EV adoption increases.

The author's mistake was not buying a Tesla EV, as they prioritize efforts to ensure a positive charging experience (including spending hundreds of millions of dollars building out and maintaining EV charging infrastructure). Other automakers make no efforts whatsoever (except at brand dealerships; who wants to charge at a car dealership?) to provide charging infrastructure, with this being the result. Nissan Leaf and BMW i3 owners face the same hassles in the US.

[1] https://supercharge.info/map

The author's mistake was not buying a Tesla EV

The commenter's mistake was not reading the...part where the author cannot buy a Tesla in their home country.

Nissan Leaf and BMW i3 owners face the same hassles in the US.

What hassles are you referring to? You just outlined how one taps a card and charges at ChargePoint stations, which doesn't seem like a hassle? The only hassle I've encountered in nine years of Leaf ownership is a non-operative charger.

TLDR Blog post should be “I made a mistake buying an EV in Croatia”

If you can’t buy a Tesla, and settle for another EV, you can’t complain about the garbage third party charging experience. They’re (Non Tesla EVs) perfectly fine golf carts (<100 miles round trip) if you never make long trips with them though.

Non Tesla level 2 chargers can be out of order (as you mentioned), causing range anxiety or exceptionally slow travel plans for Leafs, i3s, and other EVs without a manufacturer provided charging network. I’ve never had a Supercharger or destination charger be out of order upon my arrival and need to charge (it happens I’ve heard, it just much more rare than neglected third party charging stations). I opportunistically charge at ChargePoint stations, but don’t need to due to having 300+ miles of range; them being out of order doesn’t impact me in our S, X, or Y. I can always Supercharge, other EVs have limited options (as this blog post demonstrates).

Anyway, I think the case is really “don’t buy an EV if you need to travel and the charging infrastructure doesn’t exist”, and being of low quality is just as bad as not existing.

That article is painful to read. In the US with a Tesla everything is easy and automatic on their network. As you say, you can use their network, your credit card is on file, you just plug in and charge. You can use the currently most available third party networks (j1772 charges via a tesla provided adapter), but not the newer and higher power ccs chargers - but other charging network suffer from idiotic network operators who don't fix them frequently. Other cars are also cursed with much lower power AC charging. Companies cheap out by not including reasonable AC charging options onboard. Only Tesla makes it work and reasonable for long distance driving.

I had a very similar experience during my first somewhat long trip in my Leaf. It has a range of "150" miles, but it's closer to 120. My destination was 60 miles away, should be good for a round trip, maybe a short charge at the destination or on the way back.

Nope. It's 30F out and that left me with 5% battery when I reached my destination. There was a charger nearby at a CVS. Arrived there an it was out of order. The town had a charger in their parking garage, get in and that's out of order as well and I had to pay $5 for the 5 minutes I was in garage.

Drove to the next town over for the next closest charger. 2 blocks away and I'm at 0%, the car is yelling at me but managed to make it to the charger. It works! It's a level 2, but should charge to full in an hour. Head to the shopping area and keep track of the charging process on my phone, which was nice. An hour later and I'm only up to 30% and I have to go back and start the charging process again. Wander around for another hour to get to 75% and can't stay longer because the garage is closing.

Thankfully that 75%, with the heater off and not going above 45mph let me get home with 5% battery left. Many lessons learned that day.

Having to research this stuff, get specific apps, and plan out a route is a horrible experience. Compare to ICE cars: universally compatible with stations at almost any corner or highway exit, and all you need is cash or a credit card. Until someone who isn't tech-minded can use EVs for trips like these, don't expect them to get mass adoption.

Electric cars need a range extender. Due to lack of imagination on both consumers and manufacturers, this means buying a second ICE car to act as a range extender. Here is an example of planning camping trip on tesla route planner: https://www.tesla.com/en_CA/trips#/?v=M3_2015_74&o=Guelph,%2...

With an ICE, you save over 3 hours of trip time, and modern conveniences of a gas station. Priceless.

As I was reading the article I found myself getting more and more frustrated with the author and developers of EV charging infrastructure; the author, for having not researched these things ahead of time, which seems reasonable when buying such an unusually fueled vehicle, and developers for having such crazy disparate standards and plugs and cabling and generally crap user friendliness.

I typically draw this comparison between Tesla and Apple: Tesla wanted people to enjoy using EVs, and they saw a few problems for that:

1. charging sucks, and range anxiety makes people nervous

2. most people's perception of electrically-propelled vehicles is of Prius(es? i?): slow and unimpressive.

They solved (1) with the supercharging network, which is insanely easy to use (drive up, plug in, credit card is automatically charged), and integrating the network as well as all Tesla "destination" chargers (level 2s installed at businesses, hotels, etc) such that the car knows where all of them are. The built-in navigation on my model 3 can tell me exactly when and where I'll have to stop for charging along my trip, and for how long, with real-time availability info.

I don't understand how other EV manufacturers haven't tried to co-ordinate a similar open network between them: it would solve so many usability problems. Go lob some $$$ at Chargepoint and use the 3g connection the cars are already using to send telemetry back to check availability for chargers nearby.

Give users incentives to use whatever network works with the manufacturer; buy a Kona? get 15% off your first 5 charges with ChargePoint. Honda Insight? Congrats on your 500 free miles with $OtherProvider!

Tesla absolutely has shortcomings, but they well and truly solved this UX issue. They should at least be given credit by being emulated.

The downside of course is it's easy for them to deploy those solutions in the relatively-homogenously-regulated region of the US, but significantly more difficult in regions like Europe.

The one point I'll make is, Tesla solved all these problems. But that only makes it equivalent to ICE vehicles in someways and still worse in others.

UX to find charging stations and having to plan trips? That's impressive if the alternative wasn't ubiquitous gas stations literally everywhere with 5 minute fill up times.

The supercharger network is great but people want to be able to mainly charge at work and at home not on I-79 or someone else's business. And no one wants to foot that infrastructure bill right now.

The number of charging stations is just a chicken and egg problem.

The problem is deeper than that.

For EVs to truly take over people need to be able to charge at work and at home. This immediately rules out any resident without parking options.

It doesn't matter for ICE vehicles - fill up times are short and gas stations are ubiquitous. But neither of these are true for EVs. Even if they were ubiquitous, they still take time.

High fuel taxes in Europe are a lucrative source of income for governments, and are a perverse incentive to neglect EV infrastructure.

Knowing Europe, they will eventually come up with some bundle of regulations and a super VAT for electricity when put into a car to make up the deficit.

Wow. This makes me very grateful to live in America. Our infrastructure may not be as high-tech, but it's at least fairly consistent coast-to-coast.

> But this time dreams failed because of people, not because of technology.

As a technologist, never forget this. It's a very common thing.

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