On Thursday the 13th I left home after an earlier trip to Green Hills. (We had eaten at Zoe’s in Green Hills and were given number 13 while we waited on our food). The LEAF’s charge level was too low for a return journey to the Vanderbilt area in Nashville, I hadn’t had the time to fully recharge the vehicle, I depended on a remote charge to get home.
I called ahead to make sure the newly installed chargers were operational and determine where they were. The Front Desk had someone reserve one of the places for me. The number 13 should have clued me into the fact that this wasn’t going to be plain sailing. I drove the side streets on the way down ‘hyper-miling’ in ECO mode to conserve energy, ‘just in case’ I couldn’t get a decent charge downtown. I used slightly less that 1/4 charge to cover 24 miles. So yes it is possible to drive a LEAF 100+ miles on a single charge as advertised by Nissan, as long as you drive like a granny (no offense to grannies intended).
When I arrived I pulled into the parking spot and saw the two Blink chargers powered on and ready for use!! However when I held my RFID card up to the sensor the charger resolutely ignored me. I tried the other charger and got the same result. Nothing. I could not initiate a charge. I enquired at the reception desk and the maintenance guy was paged (pictured above). I demonstrated the problem to him and he indicated that the chargers are brand new and he had no idea how to fix them. I asked him if he could flip the breaker on the chargers to see if that would do the trick. The breakers are behind a door adjacent to the chargers, it took a while for the maintenance guy to find the right breakers, but he was successful. After a 4 minute reboot cycle, which felt like an eternity, the chargers came online and activated flawlessly. I got a kick out of some of the questions from the maintenance guy, like ‘how much gas does it use’. I spent 10 minutes talking with him and he was quite surprised to hear or the generous financial incentives available for early EV adopters.
During my stay at the hotel that evening for 3 hours, I got 1/2 a charge so was able to drive home at my ‘normal’ interstate speeds with plenty of juice to spare. I essentially got 30 miles of free fuel that evening, no complaints there 🙂
This is the second time I have approached a public Blink charger and not been able to activate. I’ve only used 4 public Blink chargers to date. A 50% success rate is somewhat disconcerting. Blink/Ecotality better figure out what’s up with these chargers ‘locking up’ or folks are going to get stranded when depending on their availability. I was fortunate that I used a charger where someone is available 24/7 to reset the power to the units. At other locations potentially unmanned at night/weekends being stuck downtown late at night will be no joke.
Hotels therefore are ideal locations for EV chargers since maintenance workers will be available to assist with difficulties.
I visited the Holiday Inn Vanderbilt again on the 10th November 2011. Both blink chargers were powered on but once again unresponsive when presented with my RFID card. I requested assistance at the reception desk and flipping the breakers resolved the issue once again and I got my charge without further issues.
It is rather inconvenient to wait outside in the cold or rain waiting for assistance, the units clearly have an issue that requires resolution. I contacted Blink Networks to alert them to the fact the units are not reliable enough. Based on the previous months experience, I hyper-miled my way to the Hotel ‘just in case’ I couldn’t get a charge when I got there. Until the Blink equipment can be made more reliable, my confidence level in getting a charge will remain low.