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My husband discovers Electric Vehicle “Fast” Chargers at Facebook

March 8, 2013

Since this blog is about my husband’s electric vehicle, I thought it would be nice to hear from  him once in awhile. Today, marks the first of an occasional guest post from the EV driver in the family, who recently met up with his first “DC Fast Charger.” It was on the campus of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, and let’s just say my husband is getting hooked on them. This week ECOtality and Chargepoint – as reported on this New York Times blog and the San Jose Mercury News announced a collaboration to bring more charging stations to public places so let’s hope we will be seeing more of these fast chargers, which number fewer than 20 in the greater San Francisco Bay Area as far as I can tell.

Here’s my husband’s post:

“Getting an electric car is a process of unlearning. You have to relinquish the unquestioned facts of driving you first learned watching your parents from the backseat of your family’s Mercury sedan. 


T
ake gassing up. You do that on the way to something. You need gas, you see a gas station, you pull off and fill up, and you get back on your way. Not in an electric car. As John Broder of the New York Times learned on a recent test drive of a Tesla Model S, it’s not very easy to fuel an electric car on the way to something. Broder’s chronicle of that trip is here. You are best re-fuel (or recharge) an electric car when you’re not using it, such as when you’re asleep at night, or sitting in the office.

Which is one reason why I was so jazzed about trying a new Blink Level III charger, which pumps 480 volts of DC power into an EV, powering it up to 80 percent charge in as little as 20 minutes, compared to the several hours it would take on a Level II chargers, more commonly found in public and workplaces. With that charging speed, it is the closest thing electric vehicle drivers have to visiting a conventional gas station – in and out, and back on the road.
Several times I suggested to my wife, that we should take a spin over to the Facebook campus in Menlo Park, where Blink has installed some new Level III chargers. For some reason, she wasn’t thrilled by the idea. I couldn’t understand why my beloved spouse would not be thrilled about taking a ride on a beautiful Saturday afternoon over to the Facebook parking lot, why she’d want to go for a walk on the beach or plant flowers or do something else pedestrian like that.

To begin with, she was convinced that Zuck’s (Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg) security force would eject us from Facebook HQ. Or we’d find out, as I had discovered when trying to charge my Leaf on the Google campus recently ,that only employees would have the secret code needed to use to the chargers on the Facebook campus. But I’d been studying Blink’s mobile app and its website, and I was convinced that the new Level IIIs were available to the public. I did notice that all of the company’s conventional Level II chargers seemed to be perpetually occupied during the workday, while the Level IIIs were not. But I figured there had to be a reason for that.

Finally, this week I had my chance. I had to drive up to San Bruno, California then had to come back south for an appointment in Palo Alto, California before heading back home. All told, it was a hilly, 80-mile trip, most of it at freeway speeds. I’d need a charge on the way.

It was just before sunset when I pulled into the Facebook campus, on the approaches to the Dumbarton Bridge. I’d scoped out the exact location on a previous visit to Facebook, so I easily found the Blink charger. Finding the charger is often the most difficult part of the charging experience, because your Blink or Chargepoint smartphone app will bring you to a certain street address, but the charger is often tucked away in some obscure corner of a parking garage or parking lot that you’ve never been to before, causing a anxiety spike as you circle, searching for the precious plug with the “LOW BATTERY” warning flashing on the dashboard. (If Tesla CEO Elon Musk spent a lot of time on the road in his Model S, I’m convinced he never would have accused Broder of trying to deplete his battery while circling a dark parking lot in Connecticut with the Model S; Broder said he was trying to find the charger).

I fumbled quite a bit with the Level III, as I tried to figure out the sequence of pulling levers and clamping handles to plug the 480-volt plug into the high-power plug of my 2012 Nissan Leaf. In truth, it was no more difficult than running a gas pump, but the first time you do it, it doesn’t feel so easy. If I had stood and took the three minutes to watch the instructional video playing on the screen above the charger, it would have been completely simple. But I tried to use it just like a conventional gas pump and it failed to connect several times. (Again, it’s a process of unlearning).

Finally, I connected, a giant fan whirred to life, and I could actually see a meter moving as the charge increased on my car. I’m starting to realize these Blink superchargers (Here’s a Blink Map of chargers )  are a great resource. They are now operating on a number of corporate campuses along Highway 101 – Since my first encounter, I have used one at Intuit in Mountain View, and another at Evernote in Redwood City . There are others at Applied Materials in Santa Clara, and Silver Spring Networks has them in Redwood City, and there is also one at a Volkswagen dealership in Belmont a bit farther north – and they never seem to be occupied, perhaps because poseur EVs, like the Volt and other plug-in hybrids that don’t really need to charge, can’t use them. Best of all, they are free.

The charge at Intuit took 22 minutes to go from 27 percent charge to 80 percent charge, according to the Blink display. Awesome!

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2 Comments
  1. Yaya permalink

    We tried the L3 charging @ Applied Material & Evernote last Saturday the very first time. The Applied Material one took us some time to figure out. The left charger was performing some software upgrade so only the right one was available but it couldn’t recognize our Blink card for some reason! 10 mins later, finally the left charger was done upgrading and woohoo, how fast was that! (and the right one started software upgrade too.) We did opt to charge to 100% @ both locations within 1 hour and hopefully that won’t cause any damage to the battery. We live in South San Jose and Applied in Santa Clara is the closest L3 location. Hopefully there’ll be more L3 this year.

  2. ELECTRIC IS THE GAS OF THE FUTURE, ALONG WITH OCEAN AND WIND POWER.

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