Iowa Charging Stations Under Utilized?

4 years ago by Eric Loveday 25

Use Me More Please

Use Me More Please

Almost daily now there seems to be some story rearing its ugly head on the Internet about how a few chargers in a US city remain largely unused.

What irks us about this is that these unused chargers will certainly be welcome in the future when hundreds of thousands of plug-in vehicles will be found in the US.

We call this future proofing.  Some US cities are ahead of the time and will benefit from that in the future, but that’s not how the local press often portrays this situation.

Take, for example, a Des Moines Register report on public charging stations in Des Moines, Iowa.

As the Register says, Iowa has dozens of chargers, most of which have seen extremely limited use.  For example, 3 charger were installed at the Franklin Avenue Public Library in Des Moines in Spring of 2012.  Combined, these 3 units have seen only 13 charging events in approximately 18 months.

Yes, that’s limited use, but their time will come.  We envision a day in the future where these 3 units will be plugged into continuously, even Library Director Greg Heid agrees by saying that he’s not at all discourage by their use at this current time and that he believes they will be used more soon.

The debate in Iowa continues though.  Some politicians are no discouraging the install of additional chargers throughout the state.  As the Des Moines Register points out, “Iowa tea party leader Ryan Rhodes says it’s wrong for governments to subsidize such efforts.”

Perhaps Iowa should slow down on installing chargers for the time being (that does put that at risk of being behind in the future though), but under no circumstances should these existing chargers be removed.  That’s not under consideration right now, but when heavy-hitting politicians get behind an effort, you never know what the result will be.

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25 responses to "Iowa Charging Stations Under Utilized?"

  1. ClarksonCote says:

    There are over 60 charging stations within 20 miles of me, however, most of them go unused due to their very high charging rate of $2.40/hour.

    I don’t know why Car Charging Group (the owners of these stations) would charge such high rates, as they’re equivalent to $9.00/gallon gasoline assuming a 3.3kW onboard car charger.

    Luckily, there are some free ones around too, and those seem to be used much more.

  2. Aaron says:

    “Iowa tea party leader Ryan Rhodes says it’s wrong for governments to subsidize such efforts.”

    What? Like ethanol production from your state’s crop of corn? STFU.

    1. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

      Supposedly, he’s against all fuel subsidies, but won’t lobby for separate removal.

  3. Mark H says:

    L1 at home.
    L2 at work.
    L3 on the commute.

    Though plenty of isolated cases can be stated, their time will NOT come at a slow rate of charge. Misplacement of L2 chargers will hurt the perception of how the EV works in the short run.

    A friend of mine owns a Model S. The other evening he received a call from a fellow Model S owner asking if he could top up at his home on his 400 mile commute. The Tesla family is VERY well connected. L3 for the commute…..

    The recent article on Siemens further explains how even the EV community got this wrong.

    Though L2 will become much more dominant for home charging, it is still misplaced in the vast majority in installations. Will we educate or be part of the problem?

    1. Mark H says:

      Ohhh for an edit button!
      While back, once again
      1) Where the auto sits idle for 4-8 hours (home, work, hotel.)
      2) Near the commute with 30 min delay.

      The money for public chargers would have been better spent making HOAs and businesses aware of the need to allow charging and placing them at large condo and apartment complexes.

      1. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

        No.
        Home: L1 or L2 depending on your car; L1 for guests
        Hotels: L1 plus some L2 for the varied needs of guests
        Airports: L1 for customers’ cars to ensure they
        Work: L1 or L2 for _business_ vehicles depending on needs.
        Road: L3/DC fast chargers for long-range BEVs on road-trips and for emergency use for mid-range BEVs

        Anything else is just unnecessary expense. There is no need for workplace chargers for commuters. People should simply buy enough AER for their commute or if that’s not possible buy a PHEV with the longest AER they can afford. It’s still take a massive chunk out of consumption and avoids encouraging an inefficiency culture of on-peak charging, half-commute batteries and long commutes.

        1. gigglehertz says:

          What about people in apartments? Unfortunately we still need L2’s around town

          1. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

            That’s because _that_ problem isn’t being solved properly … yet. Workplace charging is skirting around a problem that will in time either not need to be solved or will solve itself, and the workaround is far worse.

        2. Mark H says:

          Don’t think so much about the individual as proper energy usage. L2 chargers at work will become important to the smart grid in less than a decade. A fully charged EV leaves the house. Once it arrives at work it will plug in but not begin the charge. The ideal charge will begin around 10:00 to coincide with additional solar power. The L2 will allow for optimum use between 10:00-3:00. The commute home begins between 3:00-6:00. Once the EV arrives home AND the chemistry advances to handle the cycles, the EV will give the energy back to the grid. After peak energy passes, the EV will once again draw the power from the grid.

          One other benefit of future work charging will be the ability to turn on and off matching power fluctuations in the grid thus making the use of energy way more efficient than it is today.
          http://insideevs.com/understanding-evs-and-the-evolution-of-the-smart-grid/

          1. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

            No it won’t. Peak energy use is late afternoon to early evening. If you want your car fully charged to go home (which you will if you get a free workplace charging perk because it’s cheaper and you won’t bother to buy as much capacity in your PEV) the grid will have to put back anything it takes out at a _worse_ time of the day.

            Besides, the car manufacturers won’t allow you to do it, since that’s effectively putting miles on your battery, but without registering on the odometer.

            Of course, ignoring all the expense and practicality issues, if we all have plug-ins it implies that batteries are cheap and if batteries are cheap the utility and/or your employer will do all of the smoothing cheaper and more effectively themselves with a dedicated, purpose-built solution. Please, just forget V2G, it’s not going to happen.

            1. James says:

              Really? I didn’t “bother to buy enough capacity” on my PHEV… I want to be as rich as you someday. Is range really the only reason to buy car X. I buy based on looks, color, comfort, technology, PRICE, features, a host of other things.

              I argue I bought just enough. I barely get to work on battery, where they are kind enough to let me charge up for the electric drive home. Thankfully there’s a city sponsored charger 200 yards from my work to use. It isn’t a long distance unless it’s raining. 3 cars rotate through it’s two ports.

            2. Mark H says:

              Not getting your points. Of course peak happens 6-9PM. Whether V2G happens or not incentives will be in place not to charge during peak hours. And who said anything about “free” work charging?? The point is you can control grid efficiency if everyone is plugged in during those hours by starting and stopping charge whether you are feeding back to the grid or not. That is a real benefit to “everyone”.

  4. James says:

    And nobody goes to the gas station charging $9/gallon either. Charge me $.15 – 20 kWh and then I’d use them, but don’t make them STUPID to use and then complain that nobody is stupid enough to use them.

    IIRC about $.30/kwh is the crossover price from electric to gasoline for my car. Once I paid $.50/kWh for the fun of charging while in a store, but that was it. Places charging by the hour are fools. Different cars charge a different rates and you will never see the 110 vt used by the hour. It’d almost be cheaper to have your car towed… lol

    1. io says:

      @James, while your reasoning might hold for plug-in hybrids, at least for people who only focus on fuel cost and disregard all other benefits of driving electric (environmental, political and others, e.g. engine wear, ride comfort…), it’s completely off the mark when it comes to EVs.

      If I need to charge my EV to complete my trip, I don’t care what the price is, I’ll use whatever charging station is convenient.
      Bill me $25 per session, $2 per kW*h and/or $1 per minute for quick-charging, it doesn’t matter, I pay with a smile, knowing that the rest of my miles, the overwhelming majority, are pretty much free anyway.

      (Btw, I like stations having a per-hour/per-minute fee even when the vehicle uses zero power, because it reminds people to move their car once done charging).

      If I don’t need to charge to complete my trip, I don’t care what the price is, I won’t use it.
      Yes, even if it’s free. Ok, unless the only spot left in the parking lot is in front of the charging station and my car needs to be plugged in to legally stay there. Maybe. And always with a note with my number, in case someone actually needs to plug in.

      [So far this year, I have excess solar capacity at home, and will only get compensated a few cents/kW*h for what I don’t use anyway, so I’d consider abusive to “save” mere cents by freeloading on someone’s else much more expensive and most likely much dirtier power.]

      1. James says:

        Kinda. Since I just bought a PHEV, so clearly the economics of it and the 8 years to over come the ICE version isn’t my only thought.

        I get to vote with my wallet and you price gouge me on cost, I’ll use gas. I pay for the electricity at home, I pay for it at the charging station, I’m cool with that if it makes sense to do it. I do not understand with being ok to be way overcharged anywhere near the going rate for electricity, just because you have to have it.

        I do not understand not charging somewhere you can ‘even if it is free’. Are the lines for your areas charging station so long that you don’t want to participate and show them being used? So cool, I’ll always have a spot and I thank you. 🙂

        Coolest time was at a Wallmart where I was #3 at two L2 poles so I parked next to one and pulled in L1. Now shopping for 45 mins or so I got like 2 miles of range but it was cool to have all of it in use. The #3 spot was a normal spot btw.

        But this is early in the PHEV/BEV to fight over I want to charge vs. your need to charge before me. We are both benefiting the environment by going electric.

    2. Spec says:

      I’ll pay the $9/gallon if you have the L2 at destination where I want to go and spend several hours there. It is a convenience fee.

  5. gigglehertz says:

    Perhaps cities in Iowa would like to sell those EVSE’s to a more progressive town. I know some on the left coast that would take them off their hands at a healthy discount.

  6. vdiv says:

    Could we please read THE WHOLE article?

    Further down it says:
    “The Hy-Vee grocery store chain has installed a station at a store in Urbandale that has been used 420 times in the past year.”

    What is bad about the Des Moines Register article and the echo on sites like this one is that noone is answering the questions of “Why?” and “How?”

    Why are there so few people charging at the library, and yet at the grocery store there are many more? How much time do people spend in each establishment? How many people visit the establishment? How many are aware of the charging stations and their purpose? How accessible are the charging stations? How affordable? How reliable? Is the usage of a particular charging station, a group of them, or a whole state a reflection on the adoption or usefulness of plugin vehicles? Does a 200+ mile Tesla need to plug in at every charger it encounters during the day? Does an EREV or a PHEV?

    Noise!

    1. qwerty says:

      “Why are there so few people charging at the library, and yet at the grocery store there are many more?”

      Because the grocery store chargers are FREE!!! Per the Des Moines Register article: “The Urbandale Hy-Vee units have been used 420 times over the past year with as many as four plug-in cars using them at one time, Comer said. Kum & Go and Hy-Vee are currently offering free charges to customers.”

      Eric, could you at least provide a link to the source article in the Des Moines Register when you’re spreading FUD.

      http://www.desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013308260034

  7. Which came first: the chicken or the EV?

    Sheesh, people need to take a chill pill.

    Neil

  8. Spec says:

    I want L2s AT DESTINATIONS OF INTEREST. Places where you stay for a few hours. Zoos, malls, movie theatres, theme parks, beaches, parks, museums, downtown parking garages, etc.

    If people go to the area and stay there for several hours . . . put an L2 there. Everywhere else . . . . kinda pointless. I appreciate that Walgreens has put in some chargers . . . but who goes to Walgreens for 2 hours?!?!

    1. James says:

      I like the idea that an airport is putting in 10 L1 chargers since the average time a car is in the lot is 1.4 days, don’t need an L2 there. Smart.

  9. Chris O says:

    I agree with the sentiment that there is no future in level 2 charging except for a few places where people will usually stay for a longer period making it worth their while to possibly make a small detour to find the charger and plug-in. Of course they will still end up hogging the spot for a long period while being unwilling to pay substantial cash for it. I don’t see a businessmodel here in most cases.

    Tesla is the only one doing it right: the Superchargers will offer comprehensive coverage, will charge fast so people will use them even in spots where they don’t intend to linger for too long and the businessmodel is clear: sales support. In fact the Supercharger network could mean that in the medium run Tesla will be the only relevant BEV maker out there.

    1. Spec says:

      The problem with the Tesla model is that only the top 5% can afford their cars.

      I think L2 charging is very useful for places where you stay for hours and DC fast-charging will be great at rest stops and places where you want a fast charge. Unfortunately, the DC-fast charging is mired in a stupid standards war, there are not enough EVs with DC fast-charging ability out there yet, and few people are deploying DC-fast-chargers.

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