We do most of our Leaf charging at home. There’s no need to use any other charger when we’re just driving around town. When we drive further afield I make sure I know the location of the chargers on our route. There are a lot of public chargers in Canada but not near as many chargers as there are gas stations. I wish! If fact, if there was a fast charger at each gas station tomorrow then our (gas) Camry would be on Kijiji the day after. But for now I need to carefully plan where and when we’ll charge while travelling. So how do we find chargers?
www.plugshare.com contains a detailed map of electric vehicle (EV) chargers. Both the website and the smartphone app are pretty awesome – you can find public chargers almost anywhere in the world. It’s “open sourced” which means that everyone contributes to keeping it up to date, kind of like www.wikipedia.org. I’ve only added one charger to the Plugshare map myself but there are over a hundred chargers in the Maritimes and the number keeps growing.
In addition to helping you find chargers, Plugshare also tells you all about each charger: level (see charger levels/types in my last post), availability, cost, special details for using it, how many chargers are at that location, and which are currently working. Each time a Plugshare user stops at a public charger they post an update on plugshare: when they started charging, how long they’ll be there, and, at the end, whether they had any problems. This is strictly voluntary but many EV drivers are very supportive of this process. It means that when the tables are turned then they’ll be able to find a charger because of others doing the same thing.
EV charging service providers also have their own online services to help you find, use and, in some cases, pay for their chargers. I registered with one such vendor, VERnetwork (www.reseauver.com), which has a handful of chargers in the Maritimes including two chargers in downtown Saint John. Useful but the best place to start is Plugshare.
Power is Everywhere
Plugshare is great but don’t forget that every regular household electrical outlet can be a place to charge. Our Leaf, just like every EV, has a cable which allows it to charge from a regular outlet. Of course, if the up side is that these outlets are everywhere then the downside is that charging from one is very slow. That said, here are some examples of when we used them to charge and were quite happy to do so.
When we drove the Leaf to Halifax last summer I knew from Plugshare that there were level 2 chargers all along the way but very few in Halifax-Dartmouth. Instead we plugged into the outside outlets at the homes of family and friends while we were visiting. Yes, we asked first! I also ensured that the hotel we booked had an outside outlet we could use. Hotels are increasingly keen to be seen as supporting clean tech such as electric cars. They were very happy to make an outlet available from which we charged each night. In the end we drove around in Halifax-Dartmouth for three days and only charged from regular outlets with the exception of a couple of hours of level 2 charging at the library.
Return Trip from Saint John
Last week we went to Saint John for an overnight stay. The one way trip to Saint John is near the outer limit of the Leaf’s single charge range but it’s normally quite straightforward. I’ve done it several times but never in winter. The temperature was hovering around 0C so I knew that there would be less power in the battery than in the summer. No problem. We’d just take it easy – driving slower extends range.
On the way to Saint John it was tight but we made it fine on one charge. The return trip was a different matter. As we crested Petersville Hill at the midpoint of the trip a twigging doubt flowered into the full realization that we didn’t have enough power in the battery to make it all of the way home.
We kept going and pondered the possibilities. There are no public chargers between Saint John and New Maryland so that was not going to happen. Go as far as we can and call CAA for a tow? Nope. We pulled into a gas station / restaurant, plugged into an outside outlet and went inside to have a leisurely lunch. After about an hour we unplugged and drove the rest of the way home. There is power everywhere! If that station had had a level 2 charger we would have been gone in 15 minutes. Level 3 charger? 3 minutes.
Afterwards, at home, I realized that I had not allowed for the effect of parking the Leaf outside during a cold -10C night. The Leaf normally overnights in our garage. The next time we stay in Saint John I’ll park the Leaf in a more sheltered spot like the underground parking at Market Square. Problem solved!
Growing into the Future
Plugshare is great. I rely on it heavily when planning out of town trips in the Leaf. Still, the best laid plans can fall through so it’s good to know the ubiquitous 110 volt outlet can be used in a pinch.
That said, it’s not hard to picture the demise of Plugshare when public chargers become as common as or more common than gas stations. Ikea, St Hubert, Marriott hotels, Best Western hotels, Amsterdam Inn, and MacDonald’s are just a few examples of the companies which are installing EV chargers to attract customers. We even have a local Irving gas station which has two EV chargers installed.
Over the next couple of years the next generation of electric cars will appear with their 300+ km range and, I expect, the growth in public chargers will accelerate. It will be interesting to see how people’s perspective on the act of going somewhere just to get fuel for their car changes when there’s “fuel” everywhere you park.
Next – Countdown to no-gas or When to sell the (gas) Camry?