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Is the electric car charging infrastructure ready for prime time? Almost, but not quite yet: My personal range experiment. | Solar Powered Electric Vehicle

Both positive and negative news for electric cars have been in press recently. Here’s a quick round up: Tesla Motor’s company stock TSLA is hitting all-time highs ($59/share at time of this writing) and positioned to announce a first ever quarterly profit on May 8th, 2013. Coda Automotive has just filed for bankruptcy last week. Total plug-in electric cars sales (including that of plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt) are up 140% over last year (source: Current EVents newsletter, April 2013)

But are electric cars ready for prime time?

To help answer this question, I poised myself for an adventure, to drive 140 miles round trip using existing charging infrastructure in the North Bay area. My vehicle of choice on this trip is a converted electric MR2 with a range similar to that of the Nissan Leaf at 70 freeway miles per charge.

Range record breaking plan:

Like any good adventure, my plan began with a day off from work so that I could drive 61 miles (freeway) up to Petaluma, CA to attend the annual stockholder’s meeting for Enphase Energy (ENPH). ENPH pioneered the designs and manufactures solar micro-inverters that convert DC solar energy to AC on a per panel basis. Micro inverters significantly increased the efficiency of a solar system because the performance of the overall system is no longer dependent upon the least performing panel in a system. With a freeway range of 70 miles, my plan was to attend the meeting in the morning, then drive to the nearest ChargePointcharging station to refuel and hang out at a local coffee shop and possibly get some work done for 3 hours, and then head back home.

The Meeting:

In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “The only things certain in life are death, taxes, and traffic…” he would have said that if he were alive today and had to deal with city driving. I was a half hour late due to traffic and missed the entire meeting. However, I did meet the legal counsel, Taylor Browning and chatted briefly with him, as he provided me with highlights from the meeting.

I also met the receptionist, Monica, who was kind enough to entertain my conversation while keeping up with her workload, a true multi-tasker! I can’t say enough great things about Monica; she created such a warm and inviting atmosphere that could be immediately felt upon arrival. As people walked in, she either already knew them or already anticipated their needs. I found out that things overseas in Europe were going well as she answered the phone and talked to a recently relocated employee to the UK supporting operations in Europe.

After my visit, I felt good about the company knowing that people like Monica worked for them. In the hour there, I saw at least 30 folks walking in and out of the building, varying from vendors, engineers and executives, all of whom shared the same high energy and bright smiles; which suggest things are going well at Enphase. I’m definitely holding on to my shares of ENPH!

The Complication

After the meeting, I drove about five miles to the nearest ChargePoint stations at Casa Grande High School. Here’s what I found..



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