Charging An Electric Vehicle Away From Home Recently Was A Frustrating, Time-Consuming Endeavor

The first thing you need to know is I’m not blaming electric cars for my recent, blood-boiling efforts to charge one I was test-driving in a strange town.

Buzzmobiles have their problems, sure, but billions of dollars are being invested in both the cars and the infrastructure to charge them. They’re not going anywhere. And once you get ‘em full of juice, they’re loads of fun.

I’ll tell you what happened.

I drove the Polestar 2 in and around Los Angeles and in Pasadena, where I was housesitting/watching a cat, for nine days. I parked every night under the apartment building I was staying in, which is not equipped for charging electrics. No surprise there. I just thought I’d find whatever charging station I could find, hook up and take off for a couple of hours, come back and be on my way.

I signed up for ChargePoint, put money into the account and used their map to find me the nearest charger when it was time to power up two days later.

But when I got to the parking garage where the charger was, you had to have a permit to park there. You couldn’t pay for parking and do it that way, either. Ah, well. At least they were nice about it.

The next place I found was also in a garage where it would be $4 an hour to park and charge. It’s their garage, of course, and it’s a business, sure. But I didn’t want to spend an extra $8 to park while I charged my car, and I’m sure you wouldn’t either.

I then found a Chargepoint station at an auto dealership, grandly hooked up to my car, then swiped my phone where I was directed to on the charging unit.

But Chargepoint wouldn’t activate – I kept being sent to Google pay, Google pay, Google pay.

By now I was a little frustrated, but – fine. I downloaded Google Pay, put money on the account, swiped the phone, got a green light showing I was charging, and walked about five blocks to the nearest Starbucks, where I bought a drink and worked on my computer.

I returned two hours later to find my car uncharged, with only 17% left, or under 30 miles. Furious, I re-connected the hose and re-swiped the phone, and waited for the machine to give the green light that I was charging. Only this time I stood there watching it. In about 60 seconds I got this message:

I called the number on the machine and was told, yes, the machine was out of order.

By now it was nighttime. I had been looking forward to driving to L.A. that night to play guitar at a club, but that was out the window. Remember pay phones? And how you wanted to punch some of them?

I longed for a good old-fashioned gas guzzler, which I could take to a “gas station” with an attendant who would, of course, put an OUT OF ORDER sign on the pump if it wasn’t working and wouldn’t want any money for me to park while I gassed up.

I decided to go home, pet the cat, eat some dinner and forget about charging until the next day.

The following morning, I found a fast-charging machine that worked, but which would not accept either my new Chargepoint app or Google pay. Also, the window indicator on the machine was miniscule and positioned below my waist. I guess whoever designed it figured a lot of clients would be small children.

They accepted good old-fashioned credit cards, though. I hooked up the car, swiped my VISA and saw that, yes, I was juicing. I waited in the car a little while to make sure the unit wouldn’t quit on the job. Satisfied, I took off for about 90 minutes, came back and – yay!

It only had taken 6 hours to get my charge. It took Dr. Frankenstein, above, less than two minutes to get Boris Karloff’s meter to 100%.

On my way home from L.A. a couple of nights later, I spied a huge car-charging mecca, with at least 20 chargers all with the TESLA neon logos glowing, and parked cars with people in them.

It looked like a drive-in movie. It was rather soothing, seeing people relaxing in their cars, reading, talking, eating, just hanging out. It was also a beautiful night. I might have sung a different tune if it was an 11-degree January in New York.

There were also six non-Tesla charging stations.

Three people were already charging, so I pulled into an empty spot.

“Three of the machines are out of order,” one kind motorist told me. “But I’m almost done. You can have mine when I’m finished.”

When she finished, I backed in, hooked up and went to pay – but could not.

I soon realized these chargers were free. I don’t know who or what was responsible, but I wished I’d known about them before I spent $70 on that other machine that only took credit cards.

What to make of all this?

First, I am far from the only person who has ever spent hours trying to get charged. It’s not because I’m a ding-a-ling who can’t hack modern techmologies.

Second, once I found my charging groove, I relaxed and enjoyed the test. I am well aware that this “problem” pales in the face of far more serious issues we face in the country, daily.

On the other hand, getting to work and back IS a serious issue, isn’t it? You buy a car, you want the damned thing not to leave you stranded, whatever the reason. This has been true since the days of the Model T.

I’m just looking forward to the day when anyone who wants to charge a car in or near a major city can easily find one that isn’t broken, pay with a credit card and not a silly app, and be on their way.

Not there yet, apparently. But I’m patient. You have to be when you drive an electric vehicle.

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