First of all, yes, charging on other EV charging networks is certainly fun as well. In the US, there are several other networks — like EVgo, Blink, and Greenlots — that I’m sure are fun to use. In Europe, I know from personal experience that GreenWay and Fastned are great. But when it comes to daily EV life in Sarasota, Florida, ChargePoint is king — and I’m sure that’s the case in a large number of cities across the country.
We charge at Whole Foods, at the beach, at the mall, at another Whole Foods, at the park/playground — all using ChargePoint chargers. (There’s also a park/playground at the marina that has a useful Clipper Creek charging station, which we’ve used a couple of times.)
The orange coloring fairly high up on ChargePoint’s newer stations is right in line with our EV charging guidelines well — when you’re slowly driving through a parking lot scanning the rows and rows of cars for a station, ChargePoint’s charging poles aren’t that hard to find (could be better, but they are certainly easier to spot than most).
As you pull up, you have a couple of options: 1) you can get out and swipe your little ChargePoint membership card next to the machine, or 2) you can open the ChargePoint app, click on the station you’re parked at, and press “Start Charge” (a big orange button). Yes, you do need to set up a ChargePoint account first* — doesn’t take long.
Once you’ve activated the charging session via one of those options, just unplug the charging nozzle from the ChargePoint station (it can take a moment to unlock after the steps above, and it can also lock up again if you take too long). Then plug it into your car and it should be charging. It’s seriously as easy as that.
Just getting the cable and plugging it into your car is fun. Our 4-year-old is obsessed with it and wants to do it every time. 😀
But the most fun for me is the app. It’s nicely designed to find chargers and to explore which local businesses and organizations are awesome EV charging leaders. It also lets you know if a station is in use, what the charging rate is, how long you’ve been charging, and how many km or kWh you’ve added. And it lets you stop charging as well as start charging.
Diving deeper, the app shows you a bar chart of hourly charging popularity or “traffic” at each station, it tells you what hours the station is open, it has a user-crowdsourced “Tips” section for each charger, it shows you the EV models that most recently used the station, and it lets users upload photos of the station.
Overall, the app is simple enough that it’s easy to use but it has enough features that it’s fun and something you do actually use. At least, I use it.
What could improve about the ChargePoint experience? Well, faster charging would be nice. Coming from Europe where typical AC charging is 22 kW, it’s a letdown to experience quite slow 6.6 kW Level 2 charging. As Tesla knew long ago, that’s too slow. At least offering 10 or 20 kW charging would make a big difference some of the time — and “some of time” matters. Honestly, 6.6 kW gets the job done for us so far even with no home charging, but 22 kW (or 25 kW “fast charging”) as a norm would help to reduce some extra charging sessions and planning.
I know ChargePoint has 25 kW charging in various locations, especially in California, and is even enabling superfast charging up to 400 kW in its next-gen charging options, but it would be cool to see 25–50 kW charging as the norm rather than the exception at local destinations (and 150–400 kW in good spots for road trip charging).
Either way, though, the good news is that ChargePoint, other EV charging leaders, and the many electric vehicles now on the market enable energy independence. That is something worth celebrating on the 4th of July. Oh yeah, from a consumer perspective, it’s also cool that all the chargers I’ve found and used are free!
*Funny short anecdote, just to show how far we have to go to raise EV awareness: I recently pulled up to a ChargePoint station to charge our BMW i3. A Tesla Model 3 driver pulled up at the same time. He went up to the station and then made it clear he didn’t realize that he had to get a ChargePoint card/account to use the station. I gave him a charge via my card, of course, but the point is that this is someone who put down a reservation on a Tesla Model 3 almost immediately, went ahead and got the car for $50,000 or more, yet didn’t know that you have to get a ChargePoint card to charge at one of its stations. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have made the same mistake a few years ago, just sayin’ — much education is still needed.
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