Real-time data for EV charging points

7 February 2012

Nissan Leaf charging

Electric cars are already a practical option for journeys within a radius of 40 miles or so, but longer trips still require a degree of planning. I’m due to take charge of a Nissan Leaf for a couple of weeks in March, and I’m already wrestling with the combinatorial problem of which charging points might let me visit family members who live in awkwardly remote spots like north Norfolk.

As you can tell, I’m keen to get a full taste of Leaf ownership, headaches, range anxiety and all.

Online project PlugSurfing has been a help, given that it lists the vast majority of the UK’s charging points and as many as 16,000 worldwide. As of today it’s trying to be even more helpful, by striving to indicate which chargers are currently vacant, in-use, or out of order. The latter of the three states is particularly helpful, given that you wouldn’t want to arrive, cable in hand, at the only charging point in Kings Lynn only to find a scribbled note revealing that an engineer has been called.

Map showing occupied charing in Holland

At present, PlugSurfing has hooked up data feeds giving real-time information on around 6,000 points. Unfortunately, many of these talkative charging posts are in Holland and Norway rather than en route to my mother in law.

Another snag is that, like convenient parking places, a vacant spot may not be there when you most need it. Real-time status is not particularly helpful for a journey that needs planning, because in the two hours it might take me to trundle the 100 miles to Kings Lynn, some local EV owner might pop out and slide into to my formerly vacant spot just moments before I arrive.

No, what’s needed is not real-time data but a crystal ball. Or, more practically, a pre-booking system, like that used by car clubs to ensure a reasonable likelihood that the Volkswagen Golf you’ve booked for a trip to Ikea is actually there waiting for you when required.

I put this point to Adam Woolway, community manager at PlugSurfing. “We’re on it,” he replied. “One step at a time!”

I hope he can hustle things along, or it looks like I’m going to need that crystal ball in about a month...

Next » « Previous Home