Hans D. Baumeister

Hans D. Baumeister

What is the best model for charging stations?

This article on Scientific American made me think: will that be the new Air-BnB for electric car owners? After my experience with the BMW i3 in Hamburg (sorry, German only), I would definitely welcome any system that makes find a charging station as simple as finding a hotel room.

However, I very much doubt that this "people for the people" model will work. For one thing, unless you have a garage or at the very least a dedicated parking space near your residence, you're not going to have simple access to your private grid. So, once again we're out of the city, out in the countryside where people own homes. Ok, say you have a home, you put some PV on top to juice up your e-car on weekends (you have it at work during the week, remember) and you join a network like the one featured in the article to make that power connection available to travelers in need.

Do you really want to deal with the logistics of having someone hooking into your power grid? Where is the car going to be parked? What if your car is parked next to the grid, what if it is plugged into that semi-fast-charging outlet when they call? Can you trust these strangers? What if they are not looking to top off their battery at all, but to find out the best way into your home later that night?

Now, take a step back to the year 2000 with me. Back then, Wifi (can you believe 11 MBits?) was just coming into its own. If you had a Wifi-capable device, you would swarm to any café, restaurant, bar or other facility that offered Wifi, either for free (i.e. "surf while you eat") or for a small charge. I'm willing to bet that Starbucks would be far from their current customer base, had they not realized that Wifi was a major factor for getting - and keeping - customers into the store!

So… take your average supermarket, restaurant, café, bar… many of these (ok, maybe not in cities) will offer parking. Why not offer a number of reserved-for-charging parking spaces?

Juice up your Nissan Leaf while you juice up your stomach? "If your check is more than $20, charging is free, otherwise you pay just 15 cents / kWh". Something along those lines. Why do stores offer parking? Because people go elsewhere to shop if they didn't. Parking spaces are expensive, after all. Now, you have a chance to capitalize on a few of these spaces - either by keeping customers longer ("better charge for an hour, hon - have another milkshake") or by drawing them away from your competition.

Maybe in 20 years, car charging will be absolute standard? This would be a great line to hear: "hey, did you hear about that new restaurant? Food is good, but jeez, no charging!"



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