Earlier this year, Xatori, a Silicon Valley software start-up released Plugshare, a new free iPhone application intended to connect electric vehicle drivers with the electric vehicle (EV) charging network. The application, released in early March of this year, boasts the ability to provide over 2500 charging locations at your fingertips. Their website’s home page goes on to say that it offers a comprehensive database of public charging stations which “eliminates range anxiety.”
Armen Petrosian, Xatori’s co-founder and chief technology officer said: “We want to break down that barrier in people’s minds about where it’s acceptable to charge. We think the infrastructure to charge is everywhere.”
When you go to iTunes to see the app, (iPhone app), you get presented with a screen that looks similar to the one on the left.
As you can see from this picture, and more from their site, the examples focus mainly on the California area. This makes sense as most of the progress in renewable solutions has been in areas where high energy costs are coupled with strong local incentives in addition to federal incentives spurring the investment and growth necessary to support initiatives like this. California has been the hands down leader in these areas although much of the East Coast is on a fast track as well.
Xatori aims to create a network of electric vehicle enthusiasts who make their household power outlets and home chargers available for drivers who need to top off their battery or who find themselves out of range of the fewer public charging stations currently available.
Drivers can enter their destination and quickly see the availability of shared outlets as well as public charging stations along their route.
Individuals who want to share their electricity indicate what type of outlet or charger they have, how to gain access and their preferred method of contact. Given that most outlets are located in locked garages or otherwise behind closed doors, Xatori expects plug sharers will ask drivers to schedule a time to charge by calling or sending a text message. You can see a youtube demonstration of this process here: EV Charging Scheduling.
But how much is it going to cost if these early adopters are mostly giving away their power?
Not much, according to Xatori’s founders. They believe that most people will share their standard 110-volt household outlets. They use the San Francisco Bay Area as an example and claim that it will cost on average about 15 cents an hour to charge an electric car. (Under a variable rate structure, some households could be charged more if they are heavy users of electricity or in certain cases, even time of day or season – 4 pm, 98 degree hot summer weekday for example could affect rates).
Given that it can take as long as 18 hours to fully charge a typical electric vehicle battery with a standard 110-volt household outlet. The company says about 975 of their 1500 private outlets utilize the 110 volt chargers and a standard plug. Approximately 525 of these private outlets utilize the larger 240 volt models. These models use a slightly different plug called the J1772 which is more common in many 240 volt applications.
It is suggested that most people are likely to just plug in for an hour or so to extend their electric vehicle’s range by a few miles. Or will they? If this is at a person’s home and that home is not located close to whatever allows the EV owner to leave the vehicle and do something, it seems unlikely to unless the EV driver finds himself about to run out of electricity and needs to find a charging site quick. On this, Mr. Petrosian seems to agree, “This is more like a backup network, like A.A.A.,” he said.
PlugShare is now plug-sharing in 47 of 50 U.S. states and boasts over 12,000 users. They claim the network includes over 1,500 private outlets shared by PlugShare members as well as over 1,000 public charging stations in support of the Electric Vehicle Market.
Although still very much concentrated in California, public charging stations for electric vehicles are starting to come on line in different areas of the country, and not only on the East Coast. The Electric Power Research Institute in cooperation with the Tennessee Valley Authority hope to have about 125 parking stalls in place by the end of 2011, most of them mainly in the Knoxville, Nashville and Chattanooga areas. These stations are incorporating Solar to help with the extra load generated by concentrated charging stations.
“If with new technologies we can control these resources on the distribution side, we can eliminate the need for potentially very expensive upgrades to the distribution system,” said James A. Ellis, the senior manager for transportation and infrastructure at the T.V.A.’s Technology Innovation Organization.
Finally – you know this is becoming real when Google jumps on board. Just last month, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and using data from the Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center, you can now locate over 600 stations nationally by typing “EV charging station near [city/location]” at Google Maps. The station locations are pinpointed and listed in the viewing pane to the left of the map, just like any other Google Maps search result.