Pay With PlugShare gave me a “That’s the way it should be” feeling

I’m taking a medium-length trip with my electric Karmann Ghia, and need to charge twice on the outbound leg, and charge twice on the return leg. The first charging spot, at the Gilroy Outlet Malls, let me see two things. First, is to experience “Pay With PlugShare” to pay for the charging session, and the second is to see the expansion of the Gilroy Supercharger location. At the moment I’ll focus on Pay with PlugShare, and cover the Supercharger location in another post.

It was about 2 weeks ago that PlugShare announced this new feature. It’s an arrangement with SemaConnect, one of the small fish in the electric car charging network market. They only have 4-500 stations in the U.S. and in my area most of those are at Walgreens locations. Their location at the Gilroy Outlet Malls is strategically significant for SF Bay Area EV Drivers, because it’s at the southern-most end of that area and right off the main highway (US 101) leading south. For my travels it is a convenient stopping point for longer trips heading south to Laguna Seca Raceway, or to San Juan Bautista, and today I’m heading to a meeting in Carmel, CA.

Last time I stopped at this charging station it was free – just drive up, and plug in, no need to authenticate anything. But SemaConnect has been switching to a paid model, at $0.49 per kilowatt-hour, and the Gilroy station is one of their paid stations. Further, SemaConnect has its own membership system but I’ve looked at their website several times trying to figure out how to join and get a card, but, well, I don’t remember what the hurdle was, but I simply don’t have a membership card with them.

That meant I would have been stuck – on my last electron, with few charging stations nearby and unable to use the charging station in front of me.

However.. because of Pay With PlugShare, not only is my car charging, but I had a really good experience of the transaction, and I’m feeling satisfied in knowing that I’m actually paying for the energy being used to power my car.

Perhaps I should mention that I write news articles on PlugInCars.com, a news website that’s owned by Recargo, the parent company that owns both PlugInCars and PlugShare. However, prior to joining PIC as a correspondant I was of the opinion that we electric car drivers should be paying money to use charging stations. That the era of free charging station access probably needs to end, maybe. There is a case to make that “free” is a suitable price for charging station access in certain cases, but there are also circumstances where it makes sense to charge money.

But let’s not tangentialize this and return to Pay With PlugShare.

I arrived at the station expecting it was still a free station as it had been a year ago the last time I used it. But, plugging the J1772 plug into my card, and the station asked me to wave my card in front of the EVSE. Not having a card that could have been a disastrous problem as I said above. Instead I pulled out my iPhone, fired up the PlugShare application, found the location I’m at, saw the Pay With PlugShare icon, …

Well, the experience was very simple and straightforward. I’ve had the PlugShare app for quite awhile, and have an account with them, but generally use it anonymously just to browse the charging station map. As an anonymous user of the application, tapping the Pay With PlugShare icon got me to a screen that simply asked for my credit card information. It was that simple, just enter some credit card data, tap OK, and it turned the charging station on, and started charging the car.

No muss, no fuss.

The app even shows some data about the charging session. I see that it’s currently running at a 7.7 kilowatt charge rate, that the car has drank up 8.6 kilowatt-hours of electricity, the cost is $4.52, and the duration is 16:40. That last number – well – it’s completely inaccurate, because the car has been charging for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Maybe their time display dropped off the hours?

The cost – $4.52 – $0.49 per kilowatt-hour – hurm, that’s more than the cost of gasoline in a gas car to go the same distance. While I’m in agreement we should pay for the electricity, I think the pricing needs to be way below the equivalent cost of gasoline, and enough above the cost of electricity so the charging network operator can make their profit.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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