The Awkwardness Of EV Public Charging

Most of the time I charge my electric vehicle, I do so at home, like most EV drivers.  But every so often I venture far enough out where I need to charge publicly, and my experiences to date have not been great.

Recently I drove to San Jose and found a convenient charger on the street across from City Hall, looking like a newfangled parking meter.  It was a ChargePoint charger, from one of the most successful charging companies in the state.

My Nissan LEAF charging in front of San Jose City Hall

My Nissan LEAF charging in front of San Jose City Hall

Yet ChargePoint, like other private charging companies, requires a membership to use their chargers.  With a membership, I’d get a fob that I could swipe to unlock the charger and start charging.

Without a membership though, customers are forced to call a 1-800 number and place a special credit card order for one-time payments.

So that’s what I did.  Standing on the sidewalk on my phone on hold for five minutes, before going through a laborious five-minute process confirming details (station ID number, my email address, visa card, etc.).

In this age of credit car readers everywhere, for some reason EV charging has not caught up.  While I eventually did get a charge and in a convenient spot, there’s no reason to have that kind of transactional friction on something that should be so straightforward.

ChargePoint and other chargers should have credit card readers to make the process easy, and California should make that a requirement as part of all the public money they dole out to subsidize these machines.

One more idea to toss in the policy box to improve public charging in California.


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