ECOtality’s Blink Network Struggling – Stability Sought Before Expansion (News Video)

4 years ago by Jay Cole 28

Mitsubishi i-MiEV Recharges at a (Functioning) Blink Station

Mitsubishi i-MiEV Recharges at a (Functioning) Blink Station

A regional report in the Seattle area filed by King5 (below) outlines how the CarCharging Group is having some difficulties in keeping the struggling Blink Network operational since they bid $4 million dollars at ECOtality’s bankruptcy auction last year.

ECOtality was originally allotted more than $100 million dollars in 2009 to dot the country with public DC fast charging infrastructure, but in places like Seattle, many of those units have yet to appear, while in other instances the ones that have – are no longer operation.

In greater Seattle, 22 fast charging units were planned – 11 were installed, 5 of them are operational today.

In total, some 13,000-odd ECOtality Charging Units Were Sold To CarCharging

In total, some 13,000-odd ECOtality Charging Units Were Sold To CarCharging

CarCharging has taken the first steps in making things right as a regional representative from Car Charging Group has been assigned to manage the network.

Blink Network’s General Manager Jim Stanley told King5 that the first priority for the CarCharging Group was on the inoperative units first:

“So we’re getting that network back up and running in healthy working order,” said Mr. Stanley.  The Seattle NBC affliate then asked if the group was going to follow through on ECOtality’s original plans – to which the representative replied, “Growth is definitely part of the equation for us. I can’t comment on specific sites that were targeted by ECOtality.”

 

 

InsideEVs contributor Jay Donnaway (who is also a Seattle EV Association, Tacoma EV Association, National Electric Drag Racing Association member) makes an appearance in the King5 report.  But as is to be expected on a short news segment, not all of his comments and message got through.

Fortunately, we are not time constrained here (or on a  deadline or any kind), so Jay has kindly outlined the situation with the Blink network for us below, and his recommendations to new ownership (CarCharging Group) as  representive of a consulting client who hosts three L2 Blink EVSE

Jay's Original "Long-Term" Mitsubishi I-MiEV

Jay’s Original “Long-Term” Mitsubishi I-MiEV

I jumped onto the current wave of EV adoptions fairly early, buying a Mitsubishi i-MiEV in December 2011, and have accumulated over 34,000 electric miles since. (that story here).

As a relatively high-mileage EV’er driving the lowest-range EV in the EV Project area, I wanted to both support and take full advantage of public EVSE installations, so I traded up to a CHAdeMO-equipped i-MiEV in May of 2013 and wound up spending over $30 per month with the Blink Network alone, particularly for fast charging.

Using even the partially-completed DC fast charging network increased my monthly mileage from an average of 1279 to 1459 miles, an increase of 14%, and made usage of a backup gasser very rare indeed.

The Blink network never reached it’s deployment goals, installing only half of the promised stations in the Seattle region.The deployments didn’t make particular geographic sense either, with three fast chargers in the Hwy 167 suburb of Auburn, but none in Tacoma. I chalked that up to growing pains, which of course became much more painful with the demise of EcoTality.

In the course of representing a consulting client who hosts three L2 Blink EVSE and still has not received a revenue-sharing payment, I finally made contact with a new regional representative from Car Charging Group, who has apparently been tasked with covering everything from San Francisco north.

I presented this positive development in a Blink status report to the Seattle EV Association, which resulted in the above story from King 5 News, the Seattle NBC affiliate.

I believe that it is unreasonable to expect someone in San Francisco to adequately manage the entire Pacific Northwest, so am calling upon the Car Charging Group to provide a field representative based in the Portland-to-Seattle corridor, and to get these stations in working order post haste.

Based upon a review last of stations via Blink website and Plugshare, last week 23 of the DCFC in the Blink Network of 94 DCFC were offline, either in software fault, or mechanical issues with (both) connectors. For WA State, there were only 5 working DCFC out of 11. There were originally 14 installations, but three no longer even appear on on Blinks own network map:

Additionally, two of the remaining working DCFC in WA have issues with one of the two CHAdeMO connectors.

Blink had committed to installing at least 200 DCFC. This included installing 26 DCFC in the region they negotiated with WSDOT (the donut-hole from Olympia to Everett on the West-coast Electric Highway), and Vancouver, WA (has two of 2 non-working Blink DCFC). With the increasing growth of EVs, now 10,000-strong in WA, there are often queues at a number of DCFC locations.

The Seattle EV Association is calling upon WA state to help ‘rectify’ the DCFC situation with some of the over $1 million in annual registration surcharges now collected from WA EV owners. I am calling upon the Car Charging Group to provide a field representative based in the Portland-to-Seattle corridor, and to get these stations in working order. It’s nice to finally have a real person to call, but one based in the Bay Area cannot be expected to cover Washington and Oregon as well.

Jay Donnaway (Seattle EV Association, Tacoma EV Association, National Electric Drag Racing Association)

Check out the full King5 story here

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28 responses to "ECOtality’s Blink Network Struggling – Stability Sought Before Expansion (News Video)"

  1. David Murray says:

    Blink couldn’t keep their own stations operational. Not sure why it is a surprise to anyone that a different company can’t keep them going either.

  2. ClarksonCote says:

    Car Charging Group is horrible. Their charging rates near me are atrocious at $2.40/hour or $0.49/kWh, so people very rarely use them. Doesn’t seem like a successful money making model.

    Price them at $1.00/hr and you’ll have lots of usage and actually bring in more overall revenue.

    1. SeattleTeslaGuy says:

      The reality is that people aren’t going to use EVSEs that cost more than their home power. And even then, the inconvenience of plugging for short periods will deter some as well. Bottom line, I don’t see how any charging business can succeed.

      1. Nate says:

        I disagree that people aren’t going to use EVSE’s that cost more than their home power. You might not but that doesn’t mean everyone isn’t. A guy I worked with paid for supercharger access but given the amount they will use it, the amount they are paying is higher than their home rate. There is a big difference between the cost per mile at my home power rate, and the cost per mile for gas miles. Within that difference lies my comfort zone. If I’m away from home I don’t mind paying more than my home rate as long as the rate doesn’t bring the cost per mile higher than that of gas.

        That said, I’m not sure about the long term success of any of the charging business examples we have out there.

        1. kdawg says:

          Maybe the charging companies would be better off charging an annual fee. That way they get their $ upfront, and people will have more incentive to use the chargers.

          Another idea is for the stores to offer charging credit for each dollar a customer spends in the store. I believe Kroger does this with gas. It could work for EV charging as well.

      2. io says:

        I rarely use a public EVSE or charger

        [Insert matching meme background here]

        but when I do, I couldn’t care less about cost.

        Whatever infrastructure allows me to use my EV for whatever errands I’m up to that day, instead of borrowing some stinky ICEV or otherwise interfering with my plan, will get my business.

        I pay so little per mile for the overwhelming majority of my driving, I wouldn’t mind for a second spending even 1$/kW*h on the few occasions I need it.
        Availability and convenience (either speed, ie QC, or location, ie near where I’ll spend time anyway) are way more important to me, and “high” public charging fees likely help with both.

        Incidentally, Blink/CarCharging is the company I’ve given the most money, and as it served me well so far, I will gladly continue do to so.

        1. martinwinlow says:

          I couldn’t agree more. I’d be prepared to pay the equivalent of what I’d have to pay in fossil fuel for fast charging whilst on a long trip (I’m in the UK) and that means £1/kWh ($1.6ish). As it is, the only fast chargers we have – either supplied by UK-based renewable electricity provider ecotricity (‘turning electricity bills into windmills”!) which are all free to use – see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggg3C87UVCY – or Nissan dealers. Both use the ChaDeMo standard. When I say ‘all’ apparently there are 200+ in the UK already. I just wish they were better monitored for faults and had a PDQ repair system. MW

  3. James says:

    Seattle’s situation is not unlike many other places around the United States
    where folks initially believed a public-private partnership would bring any practical
    amount of EVSEs to a region, but were sorely disappointed. There are a great
    number of EVs in my area, no QCs to speak of, and some that don’t work. In an
    American environment today wherein many politicians are pushing the government
    control of just about everything – we see the sharp contrast from this short-range
    BEV with eyes on government for charging…To Tesla, a fully independent for-profit
    company constructing several chargers per week for it’s product which has a much
    longer range.

    We’ll wait while the big auto companies sit idly by, peddling gas burners as if all
    this is not really happening. It’s the reason I see Tesla as our only great hope for
    mass EV adoption.

    Ideally, mom and pop stores will install a charging station to bring in customers.
    It’s how gas stations began dotting the highways and byways of America back in
    the day. EcoFatality, or any other government ( spelled “wasteful” ) effort will
    result in this sad kind of wastefulness, promises and result.

    1. David Murray says:

      Tesla may be building a lot of stations, but those stations are relatively useless for people who are needing to fill up while they are in their own city – the main place people expect to be driving an EV. While ‘ll agree the Tesla has enough range that it probably won’t need a fill up in town, our 80-mile EVs and especially the PHEVs need more charging stations at good locations.

    2. SeattleTeslaGuy says:

      I don’t see public charging networks as really being all that effective. Most people will charge at home where the rates are lower. Seattle has lots of EVSEs that pretty much go unused unless they are free (and then they get used). The utilization of both Blink and ChargePoint EVSEs is incredibly low – less than one car per day on average. If you factor out the free chargers in the network it gets even more dismal.

      The Tesla superchargers have somewhat better utilization but those are positioned to allow long distance travel. They are also position in places where there are activities.

      As to stores to attract customers. EVSEs don’t. The local Sears has several stations. I’ve never seen a single car charging there. I very seldom see cars charging at the local Walgreens which all have chargers. And whole foods seems to be yanking out their chargers.

      But we do agree 100% on one thing – the government efforts were a complete waste of money. Even if Ecotality had been competent, Blink would still have abysmal utilization rates.

      1. David Murray says:

        Most of our L2 EVSEs in DF/W go unused as well. But I firmly believe it is because of their location. They need to be at destinations where people will spend a lot of time. McDonald’s and Walgreens are about the only retail establishments that have them, and I usually spend 15 minutes in either one of those. Kohl’s has EVSE at a few of their locations but I rarely shop there. I can’t think of a single shopping mall in the area that has one except for an outdoor strip mall.

        1. SeattleTeslaGuy says:

          I agree the locations are crappy. It was the result of people that don’t own EVs trying to figure it out. You have to live the life to be able to understand it.

          What makes a location right is not where people go but where people spend a long time. Even 2 hours at a mall is not likely to be long enough (though better than Walgreens or MCDonalds). Parking at places of employment and apartments is likely to make the most sense. Unfortunately, those are the harder locations to crack. Where the government could help is to pass laws encouraging EV support. The stories of condo & co-op boards being hostile to EVs are out there. Make it so they can just nix a request. Some places are doing that but not enough. Mandate new construction to have some percentage of stalls EV ready and so on.

      2. io says:

        Some Walgreens and Whole Foods locations are now adding quick-chargers.
        http://api.plugshare.com/view/location/37344
        http://api.plugshare.com/view/location/37345

        Not sure where you got the idea that some business was removing its EVSEs; the only ones I’ve ever seen dismantled were the now-obsolete, paddle type (e.g. at Costco).

        Btw, yes, if I happen to be in the area and could use some electrons, the presence of a charging station on-site would definitely steer me towards this business instead of a competitor.

        Also, as you apparently have no clue about Blink’s network utilization, let me help:
        http://insideevs.com/ev-project-data-indicates-average-dc-quick-charger-is-used-4-times-per-day-level-2-chargers-only-0-23-times-per-day/
        And, not network-specific:
        http://insideevs.com/washington-state-14-quick-charge-stations-record-over-10000-charging-sessions-since-may-2012/

      3. kdawg says:

        I don’t think a couple data points is very useful to describe the entire success of public chargers. But if we are doing single data points, public chargers work on me. I only go to the theater that has the public charger, and I go to a particular restaurant more than any other, simply because it has a charger. I have a Volt and getting these opportunity charges prevents me from burning gas. The chargers are free, but the places are getting my business.

      4. James says:

        True. But isn’t that because 80 mile BEVs are still just a tiny fraction
        of cars in use today? I see a LEAF nearly every day at my local
        Fred Meyer’s Blink station – but usually only one car in the total 3
        charging spaces.

        Model S owners surely are charging at home. Why would they need
        to stop by a local charge point with over 150 miles of charge left
        onboard?

        QCs are in demand – workplace charging is in demand. It’s just not
        a very large demand. The voices asking for it don’t carry much clout.
        It’s the price of BEVs that is at the bottom of this situation. Horseless
        carriages were rare but it was difficult to fuel them at home unless
        you had a Stanley Steamer. Even steam cars were at best a huge
        commitment to fuel and prepare for a ride.

        It’s all about numbers. If drivers are on the roads in EVs the need for
        chargers expands as will businesses who want them in their places
        of business. Today, the percentage of drives in EVs even in hotspots
        like western Washington is minimal at best.

  4. Jay D says:

    Thank you Jay C.! The Blink-branded stations around Seattle are still $1 per hour, and as it happens, my client’s charging station received it’s needed repairs this morning! I hope that Car Charging does not raise to the $2.40/hr rate, which would be usurious for 3.3 kw charging.
    The $0.49/KWh rate would be a 5x markup of even the priciest “all-in” electricity in this region, and though still a tad cheaper than gasoline, it would definitely curb my usage of public EVSE.
    Per-session pricing of DCFC events is wrong, especially if charging past 80% SOC is enabled. My i-MiEV rarely consumes the max of 12 kWh in a DCFC session, and only takes 12-19 minutes to do so. $5 for a session is only reasonable because of the fixed costs involved in providing the service, and it enables the longer trips that still average out to be very cheap for EV drivers on a cents-per-mile basis.
    Jay D

  5. Anon says:

    No one is going to use chargers that are “Always on the Blink.” 😉

    Thank you, I’ll be here all week… 😉

  6. Mart Shearer says:

    Car Charging Group also acquired Chicago’s 350 Green with the dispute still ongoing in court. Whole Foods in the area has shut down their public charging until the courts sort out who gets paid by whom.

  7. Bloggin says:

    The future is not too bright for public charging stations in cities.

    As EVs range moves from 80 to 160 to 230 miles, there will be even less of a need/desire to use a public charging station. Especially since its much cheaper and more convenient to charge up at home.

    If the EV consumer buys the right size battery for their commute, their won’t be a need for workplace charging either.

    Public charging stations and and workplace charging in cities are more of a bridge while EV range moves from 80 to 160 miles per charge.

    Plug-in Hybrids that are now behind EVs at 20 miles will see a public charger use decline once they reach 40+ miles. But this is more ‘convenience’ charging than is necessary for EVs.

    Tesla has the right idea with interstate connected charging for longer city to city or state to state travel via EV.

    1. io says:

      I disagree. The availability of public charging, especially quick-charging, allows people to accept a battery size sufficient for most, instead of all, their driving needs.

      With the infrastructure helping relax the need for humongous batteries, cheaper, more efficient vehicles become more viable. This is important because it ultimately helps with the adoption of EVs, and to some extent, plug-in hybrids as well.

  8. ModernMarvelFan says:

    Public charging won’t work for 2 reasons.

    1. EV owners are too cheap that they won’t pay for those premium “often” enough to make the business viable.
    2. If the rate is competitive to home charging, then the ROIC on those stations will take forever which makes no business sense.

    The ONLY way it will work if the business installing them to attract customers so they are free for customers or car company buy them to provide free charges for a particular brand….

  9. James says:

    Again, like Kdawg states – we’ll all take advantage of opportunity charges
    if it cuts down on our gasoline usage and is convenient.

    Business opportunities abound. I’d go to a movie theater with charging over
    one without bar none. Same with a park, a parking garage in a town I’m
    just passing through… Give me a restaurant, might as well grab a charge…

    With mass adoption comes competition. You’ll go to a less expensive charger
    just as you now go to the cheapest gas station.

  10. James says:

    I like the car dealers that are now getting it, and adding service businesses
    at the dealership location. My local Toyota dealer has a lunch bar and big
    screen TV. Today I saw a food show that highlighted car businesses like
    gas stations connected to quality food outlets. Galpin Ford is the largest
    volume Ford dealer in the country. Since the 1960s they’ve had an attached
    restaurant that services both customers and the general public.

    Moving forward, I think this kind of thinking needs to include charging stations.
    Go to my dealer and get my hair cut, grab a charge and a gourmet burger. Why
    not?

    One dealer had a beauty shop and a bowling alley inside!!!

    With EVs the old model of Parts and Service Dept. kind of goes out the window.

  11. CarCharging says:

    Jay Cole:

    CarCharging would like to take this opportunity to respond to your article, “ECOtality’s Blink Network Struggling – Stability Sought Before Expansion”. We want to assure EV drivers, not only in the Seattle area, but also throughout the country, that CarCharging is committed to rectifying all outstanding maintenance issues with the Blink Network.

    Upon acquiring Blink Network from ECOtality bankruptcy proceedings in October 2013, one of the first issues CarCharging began to address was a backlog of maintenance issues that had amassed over the nearly six months prior to the sale of the network. In the four months that have passed since assuming operations CarCharging has made tremendous strides in restoring the network and service operations, with more work to do.

    In the last few months, we have serviced more than 330 commercial Blink chargers, with another 250 currently assigned to our authorized service representatives. These enhancements are in addition to restoring service to over 500 residential Blink Level 2 chargers, which were installed during the residential portion of The EV Project. Moreover, we are continually onboarding and certifying more local technicians in multiple regions in order to accelerate the pace of progress and restore the network to 100% as quickly as possible.

    We are pleased to report that in addition to servicing residential customers, technicians in the Seattle region have also serviced the DCFC and L2 networks. We are also currently servicing the Blink DC Fast Chargers in the Pacific Northwest and anticipate having all DC fast chargers fully serviced by the end of March.

    In the near-term, we are also working to expand the number of DC Faster Chargers in the region, beginning with projects that were initially started but left incomplete by the former ownership. Additionally, CarCharging continues to collaborate with the Department of Energy (“DoE”) to transfer its grant supporting the EV Project to CarCharging. The DoE has extended the term of its grant until April 30, 2014, to allow the DoE and CarCharging to continue work on the transference of the grant. CarCharging is also analyzing station information and market data to determine its expansion plans to ensure that the company continues to grow the infrastructure strategically where drivers need them the most.

    It’s also important to note that the EV Project was intended for the implementation of DC Fast Chargers and Level 2 chargers. Over 390 Level 2 stations are installed and operational, in the greater Seattle region, between Olympia and Vancouver, Canada.

    Additionally, we are currently establishing relationships with all of the Blink hosts and appreciate the community’s patience as we provide the hosts with the attention that they so deserve. We are also reviewing and exploring local representation in the Pacific Northwest.

    We continue to be enthusiastic and focused on ensuring that the Blink Network is fully functioning and the most reliable EV charging network, and appreciate the driver support as we make every effort to complete these goals as quickly as possible.

    1. Jay Cole says:

      Hi Suzanne,

      Thanks for the note, glad to see you guys are working hard in getting ECOtality’s network up and running well again!

  12. Norman says:

    Two Volts (the cars) and one failed Blink charger. What is a family to do? For now revert to the 120v. So, I notify them (who “them” are I do not know since Blink has expired) our charger isn’t charging and the guy gives a 15-minute sales pitch for a $699 IQ replacement (minus $200 rebates), or repair mine for $400 (he diagnosed problem over the phone). Right now I would say neither. He criticized the Blink’s complexity and superfluous technology and plugged the virtues of a “simpler” IQ system. Any ideas?

  13. Jay Donnaway says:

    Norman, a Clipper Creek LCS-25 will be all your Volt can handle, and is a much better machine at $550.