Published on May 3rd, 2016 | by Zachary Shahan24
EV Charging In Wroclaw, Poland (Seriously) — And Why I Love The Nissan LEAF
May 3rd, 2016 by Zachary Shahan
Ever been curious about EV charging in Wrocław, Poland?
I didn’t think so, but I have! And I have some stories that I think any EV fan can find a bit interesting.
Luckily, one of our passionate readers — a Nissan LEAF early adopter — lives in Poland, and not long after he found out that I live here as well, he brought his LEAF over to Wrocław to share with one of the branches of his courier company … and he also let me borrow it for a few days! It was a blast, and hard to give back, and I learned a handful of interesting things about charging stations in Wrocław over that weekend, so I figured I’d share with the world.
Lovin’ The LEAF
Man, first of all, let me say that there are a lot of people shit talkin’ the Nissan LEAF without warrant. I’ve rented Mercedes and BMW gasmobiles many times here in Europe, and it was immediately apparent when borrowing my friend’s Nissan LEAF a couple weekends ago that it has these “luxury” cars beat. It wasn’t just obvious to me as the driver, but also to my wife, who was sitting in the back seat with our young daughter.
The smooth and quiet ride alone puts gasmobiles in their place. As a driver, it has fun acceleration (particularly if you take it out of ECO mode … which I shouldn’t do but kept doing for the fun of it!), and feels solid but not heavy. The handling is good too, just not perfect if you step on the pedal as hard as possible while turning from a stop (not in ECO mode) — which you probably shouldn’t do with your father-in-law in the car — but the LEAF will peel out if that’s your aim. Of course, it’s no Tesla Model S or BMW i3, but it is ~20% the price to ~half the price (new). Haters can hate, but the pure-EV benefits of the LEAF and Nissan’s work building it electric from the ground up make it a more enjoyable car to drive than gas cars that cost considerably more.
Wrocław Has Charging Stations!
The first time I found out that Wrocław had EV charging stations (which definitely surprised me … given Poland’s EV market) was when I went for a test drive of the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid. The Mitsubishi dealer had an EV charging station on site, and the sales guy there told me that there were a dozen or so in the city, and a map of them online. It took a while for me to find the map, but once I did, I discovered that one of them was a 2-minute walk from my home! Right next to a shopping center where we go almost daily. Even in plain sight from the sidewalk. That definitely brings up one criticism I have of most of the charging stations here — they are not very prominently designed or marked. But I was still thrilled to discover this.
Demonstrating how awesome PlugShare is, I later discovered that it includes these Wrocław charging stations as well. And there are apparently 23 charging stations located around the city.
Whoever planned the EV charging station network in Wrocław did a pretty good job (aside from the charging station design and lack of dedicated parking for EVs in some of the places). Charging stations are located at over a dozen key hotspots in the city (and, most critically, in my neighborhood). The Galactico charging stations are easy to use — you just need to get a card, hold it in the right spot to get the charging station talking to you, choose the charging port you want to use, and plug in. They provide info on charging time, power, kWh served, and I think one or two other metrics (but forget them at the moment).
One other thing I learned once I had the LEAF and was finally charging was that the charging stations are also free! I know, some of the readers here on CleanTechnica are not freegans, but I think free charging is helpful for kickstarting this new market (which is practically a non-existent market here), and I can’t complain as a consumer. 😀
Not All Charging Stations Are Equal
My wife and I were headed out to a Big Box shopping center (Florida style… 😛 ) to shop for some stuff for our new home, and I knew there were some charging stations out there, so I was excited to try them out even though I didn’t need a charge.
One challenge I’ve discovered with PlugShare is that it isn’t super duper awesome at directing you to the charging station (unless I’m missing something). Maybe I should have tried the Nissan navigation system, which works well for my mom (in FL) in many cases. But we did end up working our way to the nice, new-looking charging stations after a couple times through the wrong area of the parking lot.
We pulled up, excited to charge, and my wife was going to enthusiastically plug in for the first time, which I was enthusiastic about since she isn’t nearly the EV fanatic I am! Unfortunately, we hit a big snafu … you need an RFID card, and not from the Galactico network (which provides nearly all of the charging stations in the city), in order to unlock the charging station boxes and start charging.
Here’s A “Funny” Story For You…
I saw on the PlugShare app the following note regarding these charging stations: “RFID card from reception probably is needed,” so I decided to go try to find someone to give me a card.
My wife wasn’t too thrilled about the situation, and we didn’t have the entire day to do what we needed to do, so she went into the first store while I hastily walked in the other direction and found the administration office on the other side of the mall. The guy there didn’t initially know what I was talking about, and I barely got him to make an effort to figure things out. He called someone, and after 5–10 minutes, the decision was that someone from the main security office in the mall would come and get me.
The young man from security arrived on his Segway and we awkwardly* went back to the middle of the mall, and then back through the shady (it seemed) corridors that led to the main security office. We met another security guy there, and having no cards or knowledge of where to get them, the decision was to head to the mall’s main Information desk (you know, the place you go to get directions to a store when you can’t operate the huge touchscreen maps that are scattered around). The young lady there didn’t know anything either, and didn’t find any cards in her little booth. She tried calling her supervisor, but didn’t get through to anyone.
The main security guy, kindly, tried calling someone again … no luck. No one could figure out where these cards were.
Like I said, though, the security guys were quite nice about it all, and they offered to bring me around back, where there was a plug next to some dumpsters that I could use to charge while shopping. I was definitely smiling and laughing a lot at this point and was interested to see where all of this would lead, and the security guys seemed to enjoy having something somewhat interesting to do, so we went around back. I found out along the way that this happened once before a few months prior, with a guy driving an electric Mitsubishi (I assume a Mitsubishi i-MiEV). o.O Too bad that they hadn’t solved the problem at this point, but I definitely pushed them to do so before I come back with the desire to charge again. 😀
As you can see, the charging situation wasn’t the prettiest, but we did end up getting to 100% before leaving (from ~50%).
Some Charging Station Locations Are More “Creative” Than Others
The next day, we were in another area of the city and checked out a station in that area. Again, finding it on PlugShare wasn’t super easy. It was at a dealership (PTHW) next to a gas station, but once we pulled into the gas station, we were sitting on the dot, and didn’t see anything. But we found PTHW after a few minutes and then spotted the charging station.
Oddly, you have to drive on the sidewalk a little bit to get to this charging station … but I’m assuming that’s legal, and at least it would prevent you from getting ICE’d.
Wrocław Is Ready … For Me To Get An EV
The take-home points of the whole adventure were:
- Yep, Wrocław has charging stations that are easy to use (for the most part) and even free!
- There’s a bit of room for improvement.
- We could definitely own an electric car here, conveniently even — and that’s with no home charging (unfortunately, there are no plugs in our parking garage … something I may try to remedy).
- Having Tomek’s LEAF for a few days definitely tempted us to think about the option more seriously. But I also have another idea that I’ll come back to in a future article.
Be sure to drop me a line if you’re ever in Wrocław! Happy to show you around and explore EV charging stations with you!
*At least for me — never having walk through a mall with a guy slowly riding on a Segway on my side.