Getting a Charge: There’s an App for That


My son is learning how to drive. Gulp. So what’s his biggest issue so far? Dad telling him to check his mirrors more often or begging him to turn down his hip-hop radio station? No, he doesn’t like learning how to drive in a gas-guzzling SUV the size of Rhode Island.

He wants an electric vehicle. “Just think – no pollution and no paying $4 a gallon,” he argues. When he says this I instantly transform into my old man and begin thinking of every little thing that could go wrong if I was to purchase an EV and let him drive it. “Are you kidding me? What happens if you run out of power in the middle of the night? Those extension cords only reach so far.”

“Very funny, dad. Sounds like you have range anxiety,” he says rolling his eyes. Range anxiety is right. I know EVs are reliable but given their limited range you do have to think ahead. A fully charged Nissan Leaf has a range of nearly 140 miles while the sporty Tesla boasts a range of 245 miles. Meanwhile hybrids such as the Toyota Prius and the Chevy Volt have an internal combustion engine (ICE) to keep you rolling once the charge is gone.

I recently received an education about charging electric vehicles at the Drive Electric Minnesota display at the 10th annual Living Green Expo in St. Paul, Minn. There are some smart companies out there like GE, Coulomb Technologies, Eaton and ClipperCreek that are coming up with attractive, easy-to-use charging stations for both home and away.

I was particularly interested in hearing about locator apps for charge stations that you can download to your smart phone. One Drive Electric Minnesota vendor – Coulomb – recently upgraded its ChargePoint app so that it features real-time status for charging stations – green pushpins for available stations; blue pins for those in use. You can also reserve a station through the app so you know it will be waiting for you when you need it.

This is all still very new. I was surprised to learn that Coulomb currently has eight chargers in the Twin Cities and one in the Denver area so far. As electric vehicles grow in popularity so will the number of these convenient chargers.

Down the road these “public” charging stations might be found in the parking lot at a local Walgreen’s or right on Main Street. Pretty slick and a lot more comforting to someone like me. That’s the kind of innovation that will allow future fathers to sleep at night, rather than worry about their children running out of power in their electric vehicles.

Article by Dan Hauser, appearing courtesy Xcel Energy Blog.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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