Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Charging in Vancouver

with 6 comments

Sunday and there appears to be no-one charging at Kits Beach this morning. If something is too good to be true then it probably isn’t. The Flo app maintains this idea and when we arrive all the spaces are empty. But when we plug in no electricity flows. So I hit the help button on the app. This turns out not be a Good Idea at all. The number it dials is different to that on the machine, and it adds an extension which answers in French. Then plays music. So I end that call and dial the number on the charger, which gives me a chance to pick English from the menu, and gets answered by a human straightaway. He tells me that all four chargers will need the attention of the City of Vancouver. That doesn’t explain why the Flo app shows non-functional chargers as available. But then we find that the two chargers on Beach at Broughton, also shown as available, are in a car park that is currently closed. The chargers on 7th Ave are not available on Sunday. We end up back at Kerrisdale paying for parking and power as by the time we get there we are literally out stored power.

I get the feeling that this post may be the start of something. For now here is a picture of the free charger at the free parking out at Pacific Spirit Park. Which shuts off charging after 2 hours, no matter what.

The charger story starts getting more interesting thanks to a comment thread on this post. It turns out that the new building on the other side of Yew Street does have EV charging options. These show up on the PlugShare app but not on the FLO app or ChargePoint.

This Hyundai is parked on a space marked CAR SHARE on the corner of building A that houses Safeway. This is the north west corner just off Yew Street. There is nothing on the vehicle to suggests it belongs to a car share.

Zut alors! That is a long period of charging but then the Hyundai is an EV, not a plug-in hybrid. Since it does not appear on their app, it must require a RFID card, like I use at Oakridge when I am having tests at LifeLabs. Those FLO charges are listed on the app but not their status. So it is a bit of a crap shoot if you can get one of the two chargers there. You can’t use the phone to start charging either so I imagine they are beyond cell phone data use or nearby wifi.

The street behind the Tesla has not been named as it is really just a lane access for trucks and so on. The charger on the other side of the post is not functional – and according to PlugShare hasn’t been for some time. I imagine the Tesla’s owner will use the other one once the Hyundai is fully charged.

PlugShare also now says that the underground parking provided for Safeway also has outlets for car charging along the wall. Since I usually walk to Safeway and take the trolley for heavy loads I haven’t been down there much, but there are “multiple wall plugs available” for “trickle charging” while shopping my transportation mode may change! Apparently both parking and charging are free while shopping.

Wednesday February 1, 2023

We went out to Pacific Spirit Park this afternoon, and plugged in but the app wasn’t working. All I got was a blank page on my phone. So I used the RFID card to get the thing started. From the information panel on the charger it looked like it had started even though no little blue lights came on. But they have also done that elsewhere but come on later, so I didn’t wait for them. We walked around the park using the “Lily of the Valley” trail which someone described to us as “the Art Gallery”. So a pleasant hour and some exercise, but no electricity actually passed to the car’s traction battery.

UPDATE I got an email from Flo that explained

The problem comes from the charger but not from your card. 

I can see a support ticket was opened yesterday and our techniciens intervened around 7pm. 

The station should work and provides energy now but do not hesitate to contact us again if the problems appears again.

So my conclusion is that the guy before me – who we saw leave – must have had a problem too, but chose not to warn us that the charge wasn’t working. I don’t know why I expected that there would be some kind of fellow feeling between EV drivers.

The charger in question is actually in the top picture at the empty parking space

We got going to try and get home before the school run started. My partner noticed that she could see the car being charged on the roadside charger behind Safeway from our bedroom window. Not only that she saw the guy come back to his car and drive away. So I went down to the basement, got my car and got to the charger before anyone else did. Again, the RFID card got used, since that charger isn’t on the FLO app, and this time one blue light on the dashboard started flashing. The PlugShare app says there is a $1 charge per visit and just 1 kWhr transfers. Given that 26 hour transfer pictured above I wondered if that was right – but I suppose it depends on the number on that RFID card. I got back after two hours to find the low battery was now up to 36% – not the full charge I get in two hours elsewhere. I also established by walking around the Safeway underground parking that many of the support columns have a two outlet 110v receptacle. So that is where people are getting “trickle charging” while shopping although there are no signs about EV charging – just generic warnings to all that there is a 2 hour limit for parking while shopping. I have yet to try that.

I noticed similar boxes near the EV parking at the park but with a more complex arrangement of the socket and an absence of the large central neutral pin.

Wednesday February 5

We got to Pacific Spirit Park around 1pm but both chargers were in use – and would be for a couple of hours. So we went to Kits Beach, although I had my doubts. Once again, the reason two chargers were available was that neither worked. I talked to the operator on the phone and got her to check. I had done everything I should have, the charger failed to start. And we tried to get the Modo charger started from her end with the same result. I was going to go to 7th Avenue, which the Flo app said was available, but their web page showed was in use, so then we went up to Kerrisdale. By now my “top up” idea had to change to a full two hour charge at the place with the most expensive electricity and parking fee.

I also found out today that I had qualified for the BC electric vehicle subsidy – as I got a request to complete a survey. What the dealership had done was add three years of biannual services to my purchase bill on the assumption that I would qualify for the subsidy (I had ordered the car and paid a deposit before the rules changed). The survey asked if I had applied for the subsidy for a Level 2 charger – but as the strata council opposes that idea it wasn’t exactly applicable.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 22, 2023 at 1:49 pm

Posted in electric cars

6 Responses

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  1. I’ve found the PlugShare app to be very useful as the descriptions will usually tell you arcane but vital information such as when chargers can’t be accessed due to hours of operation. Drivers also leave comments and ratings which give you insight into how reliable a charger is likely to be.

    Sean Nelson

    January 29, 2023 at 8:59 am

  2. Thank you. I have downloaded that app to my phone and will start adding commentary there. It seems that you have to be at the charger (“Check In”) in order to offer information. So PlugShare does not have times for the West 7th Ave Parking lot or the essential information that it is closed on Sundays.

    I suppose the reality is that no app is perfect but by having more than one the risk of disappointment is lowered but not eliminated.

    Stephen Rees Vancouver, BC Canada

    Stephen Rees

    January 29, 2023 at 10:15 am

  3. You can use “Check In” from anywhere, you don’t need to be at the charger, and from the checkin menu you can “leave a comment” rather than actually check in. Also, from the main page you can use the “Edit” button to report information you think should be included in the site description.

    Sean Nelson

    January 29, 2023 at 10:40 am

  4. I was not aware of that. But while I have managed to leave a comment on that West 7th location I cannot for the life of me understand what “main page” means.

    There are four tabs along the bottom of the page Map Trips Bookmarks Me. None has an Edit button – though the Me tab allows for “Send Feedback

    On the top right is a button that looks like it might be a menu but is just a way to get a list of stations rather than a map

    Stephen Rees Vancouver, BC Canada

    Stephen Rees

    January 29, 2023 at 11:07 am

  5. Sorry for the ambiguity – I was referring to the main page for a charging site – the one you see when you click the map icon for the site and it shows you the site name, and then you click on the site name to open up the details for the site. You’ll find buttons below the main photo and site name labeled “Alerts”, “Add Photo”, a button to get directions to the site, and “Edit”. It’s that last “Edit” button I was referring to.

    Sean Nelson

    January 29, 2023 at 11:11 am

  6. I think you must be using the Android app from the Google Play Store. I am using iOS on an iPhone14.

    Stephen Rees Vancouver, BC Canada

    Stephen Rees

    January 29, 2023 at 1:23 pm

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