After leasing a Nissan Leaf for the past year and a half, I’ve gone from being an electric vehicle skeptic to a full blown convert. I love my Nissan Leaf. It’s proven to be a very well built and reliable vehicle for my commuting needs. Up until now, I’ve always diligently charged the car at home. But two weeks ago, I forgot. Instead of the usual 110 miles of starting charge for my morning commute (roughly 18 miles), I had roughly 64 miles to start with. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem – but it just so happened that it was on the very day that I had a particularly long commute between the two campuses where I teach. The commute between schools is approximately 12 miles, and another 17 miles to return home. Given the milage, why the concern?
Simply put: With an electric vehicle, the number of available miles on a charge is a function of distance, driving habits, and usage of AC / heat. So a 17 mile ride can use up to approximately 27 of charge if you travel at a higher rate of speed (i.e. highway driving) and/or use the defrost / AC simultaneously. While I could theoretically make it to all my destinations with mileage to spare, the reality is, I could be cutting it close on the amount of available charge.
Not wanting to take a chance, I scouted out electric charging stations en route.
That’s when I learned of Chargepoint, billed as “the world’s largest open electric vehicle (EV) charging network”. Imagine my delight when I discovered that there were Chargepoint stations on campus. With a sigh of relief, I continued on with my early morning commute and, after a bit of searching, found the Chargepoint vehicle charging stations.
I was a bit unsure of how I would pay for my electricity usage. Despite the credit card payment information on the unit, I was unsure how to pay to initiate charging. Confused, I called the 1-800 number on the charging station. Within a minute, I was greeted by a pleasant Chargepoint customer service representative. I asked her about payment, and she mentioned that the unit on campus was available at no charge – courtesy of the university. I gave her the charging station ID, and within seconds she remotely activated the unit for me. Over the phone, I was able to apply for a free Chargepoint fob. It takes between 7 – 10 days to receive your fob, but you can always call to activate a session in the interim. My fob arrived within 5 days. In the envelope is a small rectangular unit (no bigger than a valued customer card) which can easily slip onto your keychain.
Initiating a charge with the fob was easy. Tap the Chargepoint fob on the charging station and your vehicle starts charging.
The real beauty of Chargepoint isn’t only in its ease of use. It’s in the data. With the Chargepoint mobile app or your computer’s web browser, you can monitor your car’s charging in real time. Chargepoint can even send you SMS messages to track charging progress. It will even let you know if your car has been unplugged from the charger. You can also search for other Chargepoint stations in the area.
Below are a few screenshots from the web interface. The Dashboard shows you available charging stations. You can easily sort by type of charger, nearest location, waitlist and even more.
The Stats section is of particular interest to geeks like me. I can track the amount of energy I’ve saved, how much I’ve charged the car, and frequency of charges – all on a simple graph. I can even export the data, if need be.
The Chargepoint Connections tab shows the available charging locations and terms of service. Most charging stations require payment. Some will offer a discounted rate. Payment is made through your Chargepoint fob, which is linked to a credit card you supply when joining Chargepoint.
With Chargepoint, I was easily able to remotely monitor my Leaf’s charge. Charging speed is perfectly acceptable, too. I left my car charged for about 45 minutes and easily recovered the 17 miles I made from home to campus. I found the web interface and mobile app to be useful and well implemented. Furthermore, customer service is friendly, helpful and available 24/7. For convenience, ease-of-use, and data-driven focus, Chargepoint is a boon for electric vehicle owners. And for that, Chargepoint earns 5 out of 5 Bob Weiners.
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