November 11th, 2017 by Nicolas Zart
A few years back, I met Kitty Adams and got introduced to her incredible idea, Adopt A Charger. Ever since, the organization has matured and is now reaching across the US and now into Europe.
How Did Adopt A Charger Start?
So, what is Adopt A Charger? Think of chargers a bit more like drinking fountains than vending machines. We need them where we need them. Kitty saw a lack of chargers where they were needed and decided one solution to getting them there was to allow people, organizations, or companies to pay for chargers (to “adopt” them) in certain spots — just like you see some portions of road “adopted.”
The website states that “sponsors, corporations, organizations and individuals, donate funds used to install and maintain EV chargers in parks, museums, beaches and other widely used public places.”
How did Adopt A Charger get started?
Kitty admits that it was for selfish reasons really to create Adopt A Charger. She noticed back in 2010 that much of the grant money available was going into now-defunct companies, such as ECOtotality. The problem is that they focused only on commercial areas but nothing where electric vehicle (EV) drivers wanted to go, such as museums, universities, and movie theaters. None of these chargers served the places where people stayed 2 or 3 hours.
So, what are the ideal places for chargers?
She told us that the intelligent destinations were parks, which have perfect demographics. Cool Parks Initiative by the CA State Parks encourages visitors to drive emission free in parks. California State Parks are doing a great job here. A Cal State permit gives you the option to charge.
Most of these places don’t have budgets for chargers and even less for fast chargers. But most have RV spots with 220V and 340V features. Kitty applied for grants for these nonprofits. Today, Adopt A Charger helps those places offer free chargers to the general public.
How Adopt A Charger Works
Five years after launching Adopt A Charger, the organization has reached 50 states. But California is indeed a bubble. The local Air Quality Management District, City Coordinators, and local and state players offer far more resources than many other states. In certain parts of California, you can get an extra $4,000 on top of the now threatened $7,500 EV incentive. Additionally, niche programs exist everywhere and utilities can help organizations and small businesses get chargers for free.
Tesla also offers chargers to some locations via its Destination Charging program. This program gives you a Tesla charger with a J1772 plug. It’s aimed at hotels, restaurants, and other places where Tesla drivers may be staying for a while. Many electric automotive associations reach out to businesses and help them install chargers.
Adopt A Charger believes the core infrastructure is basically already there. Any home has a few Level 1 (110V) sockets which are perfect for a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and can handle the electricity needs of average drivers. As far as pure EVs, though, a Level 2 (220V) outlet is better but can still generally be found for dryers and freezers in garages.
But when it comes to public charging, there is a desperate need for a low-cost, simple solutions. Adopt A Charger finds that it is far better to have four Level 2 chargers than one fast charger.
Adopt A Charger believes that charging is an amenity, and one you should expect to find at any destination — especially if it’s likely to be far from home. That’s why it’s so important to place so many Level 2 chargers where people want to go.
These days, it seems there is too much emphasis on creating middlemen layers, which can hinder EV adoption. It’s far easier to spend $1,500 on a Level 2 charger then $7,500 on a fully automated, two-way communication, money-taking charger.
The chargers Adopt A Charger install come with a free three-year solution. Most companies never have problems in those three years, of course.
Approaches To EV Charging Vary
Some carmakers are more active than others. Nissan and BMW are offering at no charge two free years worth of charging to their customers. Hyundai Ioniq is disrupting the industry by offering free charging for the life of the car! Electrify America, a VW program, is set to invest a lot of money into charging as well.
The sweet spot is with solar and battery-backed chargers. They are becoming more prevalent. Hospitals are perfect places for local storage and grid connection. Drivers charge early in the morning, while solar or other clean renewable energy recharge the battery packs later. That clean electricity is used the following morning for EVs. By adding a vehicle to grid (V2G) feature, companies can resell the electricity to utilities when it is most needed, thus load balancing our aging grid.
Most utilities do a good job, according to Adopt A Charger. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is particularly active and wants to be involved in helping its customers. The problems are more at the California Public Utility Commissions (CPUC) level, where lobbies slow down the process and are doing a disservice to the public.
Strangely enough, early charging pioneers are also slowing down the adoption of public chargers. ChargePoint, a company I knew a bit in its humble beginnings, is now lobbying hard against utilities opening to public free charging. It says the company can’t compete in this space, but we should remind the CPUC that the public users have to be put foremost in mind. Businesses need to adapt to modern needs, not create them. That is also one of the reasons why Adopt a Charger is a nonprofit, though.
One company doing a great job is PlugShare. It has become a great partner over the years and is doing a great job helping EV drivers to drive intelligently. That said, it just shows people where chargers are — doesn’t actually install any.
Free public EV charging and easy access to chargers leads to more car sales. Free charging is a great way for sponsors to get highlighted. Corporate sponsors are highly encouraged to do that, especially these days when brand images need constant rebuffing. If the: “How can we help the most for the highest good” ethos might have sounded corny a decade ago, it is becoming a must these days. In fact, businesses that once wouldn’t consider it are now eagerly asking to sponsor free public chargers.
What are the worse problems Adopt A Charger had to deal with? The answer was a simple one — when a charger trips a breaker. Not bad.
Adopt A Charger & The Future
The advent of modern EVs and widespread need for public charging makes us wish we had adopted 220 volts in the north of America. Europe is handling charging in a different way. 240V homes give you a Level 2 charging capacity straight off, making charging via a nearby outlet that much more effective.
Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.