Necessity breeds invention, and in the case of electric vehicle charging, it’s come from an unlikely source. Tony Williams was a fairly typical EV driver and advocate. But in the last few years he has become a serial entrepreneur, developing homemade charging products that have become commercial successes. And they have all sprung from his own needs as a driver.
He’s got a number of nifty inventions, especially for Toyota Rav4 EV drivers. But my favorite might be his extension cord idea. From a profile on Williams in Charged Electric Vehicles Magazine:
When you come to a charging spot it’s often blocked, or the last guy left his EV there, or you just can’t reach because your charge port is in the rear – like with the RAV4, BMW i3, Mercedes B-Class, and Tesla Model S,” said Williams. “The number-one problem with charge ports in the rear is when you pull into angled parking spots with a charger on the curb. Often, the cord will barely reach, or it won’t at all, and turning the car around to back it in on a busy street is nearly impossible.”
In these cases, Williams realized that a J1772 extension cord would be invaluable. So he created one, called it JLONG, and started selling it. It’s one of those products, like jumper cables or a spare tire, that when you need it, you really really need it. The unfortunate truth is that when a driver needs to charge away from home, the competition is not only other EVs, but also gas cars that want to use the charging spots for parking. The JLONG helps to satisfy this really basic need. “I’ve seen some really nutty stuff out there with people stretching cords to the limit,” said Williams.
Like other states, California has a shortage of public EV charging stations and a problem ensuring that they are properly maintained and available for us when drivers need them. The extension cords could provide an easy way to increase their availability by allowing people to charge when another car is blocking the spot and either isn’t electric or is already charged.
As Williams relates, “It saved my bacon quite a few times, and I’ve heard a lot of similar stories from our customers. We sell quite a few of them.” The “JLONG” comes in customizable lengths but may soon be standardized to meet high-volume demand. For his part, Williams carries a 40 foot version.
It’s nice to see this kind of grassroots innovation take hold — signs that the electric vehicle market is here to stay and launching market-reinforcing products and services.