Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Currency And Civic Value of Electric Vehicle Public Charging

Civic restoration, civic planning and environmental design have been my profession and my avocation for the past three decades. As a person engaged professionally in this arena, it is the most inspirational of times as America rediscovers its history in its older downtowns and older neighborhoods full of culture, uniqueness, identity and diversity, and looks to the future with changes in the way we power our homes and our cars. There is a strong connection between the two.

As a Mini-E driver for the past year racking up 17,000 miles and counting, The electric driving experience has been very rewarding both in terms of the performance and pleasures of the Mini-E, as well as experience and insights gained from the field trial, some posted on these pages in previous posts.

My views on the charging of electric cars in general are as follows: 75% of all charging will be done at the place of residence. 15% of charging will be at “Point B” commonly known as the workplace. The remaining 10% of charging will be done at public charging stations.
Focusing in on the 10% of public charging stations, I believe the most valuable of these will be along transportation corridors and destination locations.

A destination location is generally described as a place that pulls from a three hour drive time demographic. The least valuable of the public charging stations will be the local or regional destinations within a one hour drive time such as libraries, big box stores, neighborhood commercial centers etc.

It is my view that as the adoption rate of electric vehicles escalates the number if not the percentage of public charging stations along the transportation corridors and destination locations will grow exponentially and the “in city” charging stations will struggle and become less relevant in the future as the EV and PHEV range increases.

It is with certainty I can say two things.

1. That the role of the gas station today serving 100% of our gasoline car, will be greatly diminished by orders of magnitude with the adoption of electric cars
2. Americans will still travel by car and will still explore this great country in the family drive vacation.

This past weekend, my wife and I, celebrating our anniversary, took a trip in the Mini-E to Newport Beach. We selected this destination location because of the public Mini-E charging station at South Coast Plaza.

Here’s what that trip looked like.

We drove 65 miles on the freeway to South Coast Plaza (SCP), plugged in Mini-E #183 which was at 35% SOC at 11:30am and then went to a restaurant in the SCP to watch the U.S. play Ghana (we lost unfortunately.) After lunch we shopped at Nordstrom’s buying three shirts, Macy’s for home goods, and then the Bang and Olufsen store for our entertainment system.

We left SCP at 3pm fully charged and drove the short distance to the Newport Bay Marriot where we settled into our room and caught a few hours of sunshine by the pool. We dined at Mastro’s with a very special bottle of wine celebrating our Anniversary.

The next morning it was off to Laguna beach for lunch and art shopping at local galleries and the Sawdust Festival. We left Laguna at 4pm and arrived home at 5:30 pm, concluding our trip with about 20 miles of range left. The total miles driven on the overnight trip was 165 miles.

Here’s what that trip looks like in currency.

$55 for lunch, Bloody Mary’s, Beer, tips and taxes at the restaurant.
$150 at Macy’s
$130 at Nordstrom’s
$0 at the B&O store (widow shopping to add to our system one day.)
$220 for the hotel, parking and drinks by the pool.
$500 at Mastro’s for dinner and wine (an indulgence)
$100 in Laguna Beach for parking, lunch, Starbucks, Sawdust Festival and art pieces
$1450 for a painting (a gift to each other on our Anniversary)

Total: $2455 on merchants, restaurateurs, lodging, parking authorities and taxes.
All this economic stimulus because of an electric vehicle charging station and $2.00 worth of free electricity provided by SCP.

Our trip destination was determined by the availability of a public charging station and a great location. Multiply this currency experience by 700 others that will potentially use the same charging station in the near future (2 a day)

That is the currency and civic value of electric vehicle public charging.

Thank you South Coast Plaza, Newport Beach and Laguna, we had a blast! We hope you enjoy the money we left behind.
Mini-E #183


  1. Great! I agree that the vast majority of charging will be at home and the workplace is a distant 2nd. We have the advantage of living with an EV so we understand this. Unfortunately the majority of the population and the press in under the impression that we need a vast public charging infrastructure before we roll out EV's and that's just not true. A few strategically placed public charging stations in most areas will be sufficient until EV numbers begin to climb. If large employers, hotels and fast food chains were to install chargers in their parking lots it would be a all we need for the immediate future as well as a good move for the company itself. I plan on putting one in the parking lot of my restaurant soon.

  2. Tom,

    I agree, it is not only BMW that has learned from this Feild trial but the drivers like you, I, and the others have learned as well.

    This information is very valuble to town planners and electric companies as they seek to forecast the future needs.

    I am sure you will have no problem finding a partner company to install a j1772 charging station when that Active E rolls around! Out here on the west coast they are giving away the first few thousand to locations interested in hosting a public charging station.