Tuesday, December 4, 2012

EVSE Scavenger Hunt

While Electric Avenue is still not a reality it is refreshing to see the number of electric vehicle charging stations popping up all over town. I spent some of my spare time over the Thanksgiving holiday investigating many of the stations I hadn't visited yet. The weekend before the holiday I started off with a trip down to the DMV and Roeland Park City Hall.

The Roeland Park City Hall has nice signage directing people to the device. It's a double Coulomb device with 120/240. However, they have a fatal "while charging" caveat posted as well. Since this also doubles as the patrol parking lot for the PD, be careful parking.

The DMV meter is handy to the rear doors of the building. While I wouldn't want to spend hours at the DMV at least you can charge there if you had to spend too much time there.

That was enough EVSE scavenger hunt for the day as I had a customer meeting to attend.

The day after Thanksgiving I expanded my scavenger hunt. This was a great day to be indoors as the 70* temps from the day before changed to 30* temps for the day after. The interesting aspect of this hunt was the fact that while I knew the general location of the EVSE's, I didn't know the exact locations. I decided it was time to break out the GPS and navigation instructions for the car. Fortunately for me I knew the most energy efficient way to get near the EVSE's. Unfortunately for me I drove the GPS into a catatonic coma by forcing it to recalculate the drive every few blocks. If it was a real woman instead of just a female voice I'm sure the instructions would have changed to "I don't know why I'm telling you anything, you won't do what I say and go your own way anyway".

As I coasted down Wornal and recaptured energy from the long hill, I started to actually pay attention to the instructions. I knew approximately where 4725 Tracy was located but not exactly. As it turns out it was quite easy to find and the GPS was right on the money. There were two unfortunate experiences with this plug. The first is that it's still not operational. An email to KCP&L (Kansas City Power and Light) generated a response of "we're having problems getting the billing set up but it should be available soon". Given that this is part of their urban green experience and a "one off" set up compared to the rest they sponsor, that problem is understandable. The other unfortunate experience you can see above. One hour parking limit. You would not want to stop here needing a long charge. The flipside is there are only two things to do around here. You can check out the electric park where they put up with solar panels or walk around the corner for some Gate's BBQ.

In the background of the park you can see Paseo High School. This was once a vibrant educational establishment in Kansas City. Hopefully the urban renewal will bring it positive experiences again.

The next stop on the hunt was further up the street and around the corner. This sounds very short but in reality the trip from 47th Street to 50th is much further than it sounds. MRIGlobal has a device located in their parking lot. The lot is accessed not from Volker Blvd as the address would indicate but rather off Oak St. Just like the device on Tracy; this device had a problem as well.
The device is listed on ChargePoint and on PlugShare. Both networks indicate it's available for use. I contacted MRIGlobal before posting and received a very polite response from their media contact who is investigating if the plug is actually open to the public or not. I hope to hear from her this week and I will post an update with the details. But as you can see, they have it posted as public parking prohibited under threat of towing.

The next stop was the brand new University of Missouri, Kansas City parking garage. This is right next door to MRIGlobabl. Interestingly the garage is labelled the Cherry Street Garage but the EV access is off Oak. The EVSE's here are some of the best located devices around town in my opinion. They are within (long) walking distance of the Plaza. They are covered. They are right next to the Missouri Repertory Theater which is part of the University. I checked with the University police who share the garage and they confirmed that it was open parking on the weekends. Needless to say this is starting to sound like a broken record but there were problems here as well. But there is also hope. The really neat thing about this location is they already have signs up where they
expect to have future EVSE's located. You can even see where the electrical caps are located at the end of the wires where new devices could easily be added. I even forwarded a copy of the picture to our realty team that is building the new office for us so they can see a good way to build expansion capabilities into an EV solution. The disappointing aspect was the signage. "Reserved for Plug In Hybrid Vehicles". When I contacted the University for additional information they replied that the garage is under University parking control starting Monday's at 0700 until Friday's at 1900 and guest parking is $7/day. When I also mentioned that their signs were quite specific and didn't cover battery only vehicles they didn't seem to care and said not to worry that I wouldn't get a ticket.

 Across the street is actually the plug I would be using during the business day if I was in the area and needed a charge. It's a metered lot at $1/hour regardless if the car is an EV or ICE.

Just like the Cherry Street Garage, this is not a monitored lot on the weekends.

Fortunately for me I was able to set the climate control and preheat the car while it was in the Cherry Street garage because by the time my 30 minute walk around campus and to the top of the parking garage was complete, I was freezing and a warm, toasty car was calling to me. The next stage of my trip took me from the university campus across Midtown to Hospital Hill where Children's Mercy, UMKC Medical Center, and Truman Medical Center were located. Again, free open parking on the weekend but UMKC monitored parking during the week and the same $7/day parking fee for guests.

This device was actually the most difficult to find out of all the ones over the weekend. When I checked the networks I couldn't tell who owned the device. It could have been any of the three hospitals and there were no signs directing me to its location. As I noted above, it's owned by UMKC. Regarding all of their devices "The charging stations are available 24/7. UMKC has no plans to start charging for the use of the stations in the foreseeable future."

The final leg of any trip should always be a party. With that thought in mind I headed down to "the Boulevard" to find the last plug of the night. Unbeknownst to me, I was heading into conflict.
The device was in use! Very cool! The first Leaf I've ever seen except when meeting friends. Unfortunately this particular device is one of the 120/240 devices. While it has two plugs, only one is the standard L2 J1772 that is preferred. The other plug is a 120 volt that the Leaf portable EVSE can plug into. The problem is that there is a fatal design flaw in the 120. The lid on the station must make a complete connection with the magnets. When this happens the brick on the portable EVSE has to hang down. The hanging forces the plug to come out of the jack just enough to cause it to fault and not charge so even though it's advertised as a 2 location device it really only has one usable plug. Still it was a nice day to get out and about. The really nice thing about this location is that it's just down the street from two of KC's most notable Mexican restaurants, Margarita's and Ponak's.  There are also many other less well known restaurants along Southwest Boulevard. This particular plug is just off 25th Street. It's in the parking lot of the appropriately named Boulevard Brewery.

The next round of the EVSE scavenger hunt was took place the next day. This plug is at the Commerce Bank location on the northeast corner of 135th and State Line Road. Yes, this is on the Missouri side. The nice thing about this plug is that it is within walking distance of over 10 different restaurants, Lowe's, WalMart and over a dozen other shops. This is a very good location for an EVSE. It's not quite as good as the two at Town Center but it comes in a close second or third for the best in town.

Since I was already on the extreme south side of town I thought I should check out the county library at 151st and Metcalf (just west). I think having an EVSE at the libraries is a great way to educate the public, encourage EV adoption, and increase traffic at the library. I know that I will be going to either one of the two with EVSE's instead of the one around the corner from now on.
Unfortunately they still don't have signs up for this device. I need to write a letter to the county. The devices at 87th Street are properly marked but this one isn't. And boy did I get an ugly glare when I was plugged in this time. A lady in a gas guzzling minivan just glared at me for a couple minutes as I sat reading on my Kindle while the Leaf was plugged in. Well, you can't please everyone and if I were driving a 15 mpg minivan I'd be jealous of an EV too.

Overall it was a great weekend to go out tripping around town and find the plugs. There are fewer than 10 devices south of the river that I haven't checked out yet. Currently on the list is a writing campaign to get some up at the Legends. With NASCAR, T-Bones Baseball, Sporting KC soccer club, and tons of restaurants, shopping stores, and entertainment, this location would be a great one to have multiple plugs.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving holiday and are prepared to enjoy the seasonal religious festivities of your culture with your friends and families.  =)

Signing off for today
Try reading a book, it's a novel experience.

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