Imagine if one of the country’s biggest gas station chains planned an evening-long, nationwide system maintenance that resulted in the gas pumps only dispensing fuel to regular customers of that particular gas station. Now imagine that maintenance was due to start just as the rush hour was ending, but had the potential to mean new customers wouldn’t be able to fill up until the next day.
It would be total, utter carnage.
Yet that’s exactly what’s going to happen this coming Tuesday, January 28 in the UK as Charge Your Car (CYC), one of the country’s largest networks of electric vehicle charging stations, undergoes what it is calling ‘vital system maintenance.’
In a letter to all registered CYC customers, CYC explains that due to expansion in the charging network, a large majority of its charging stations will receive an over-the-air software update this coming Tuesday evening. As a consequence, affected posts will temporarily lose their 3G connection to CYC’s central database, rendering them unable to provide a charge under certain circumstances.
That’s because without the connection, the posts will be unable to properly reach CYC’s central database to correctly authenticate the validity of RFID cards being swiped by users on a post for the first time. Without authentication, the charging stations won’t release the catch holding the charge port door closed, and won’t be able to let users charge.
CYC says the issue will only affect CYC cardholders who are using a particular charging station for the first time. If you’re a regular at a CYC station and have swiped your card there in the past however, CYC says you’ll be able to get a charge as normal thanks to locally-cached authentication data on the charging post from your past visit.
Interestingly, because CYC uses a variety of charging stations from different manufacturers, not every type of charging station is affected by the problem. For example, all Elektromotive and SGTE-branded units will continue to work as normal, regardless of if you’ve visited them before or not. Charging points made by APT, DBT, Chargemaster and Siemens Charge Points however — which include everything from 32 amp, single phase Type 2 charging stations up to 50 kilowatt DC rapid chargers — will only work if you’ve visited them before.
That’s bad news for any CYC customers planning a new, never-before attempted cross-country trip on Tuesday evening, or for an EV owner visiting a neighbouring city for the first time.
In its official letter to customers, CYC marks in red typeface its grave warnings about the planned system outage, along with the news that although its 24-hour emergency helpline will operate ‘as usual’ during this period, “staff will not be able to contact any posts directly to start/end sessions, reset posts or release cables.”
“We will, however, be able to dispatch an engineer to you if you are stuck at a post,” CYC promises.
In other words, if you do use a CYC post on Tuesday evening — even one you’ve used before — and there’s a problem while you’re charging or when you’re trying to release your car from the station, you’re only option will be to wait by your car for a CYC engineer to arrive.
In addition, CYC says the smartphone app — which allows users to locate nearby CYC charging stations — will also stop working for the duration of the system update.
As any electric car owner living in the UK will confirm, the UK has more charging network providers than we honestly know what to do with. And we suspect (although it’s only speculation) that some of CYC’s planned maintenance revolves around adding additional software functionality designed to enhance charge post roaming — using a different provider’s RFID card on a CYC post.
But while we’re happy to see charging networks become easier to use — not to mention the end of needing to carry a wallet full of RFID smart cards around on EV road trips — we think the maintenance work that’s planned this coming Tuesday is bound to catch someone, somewhere out.
While CYC says the update should only take three to four hours, it admits that some users may experience problems all the way through to 8am the following morning.
Although CYC says you won’t have an issue if you’ve used a particular CYC post before, we think it’s prudent to have a backup charging plan in force for Tuesday evening, just in case.
You have been warned.
Email below sent to CYC members on Thursday, January 23, 2014.
Dear CYC Member
***IMPORTANT INFORMATION REGARDING THE CYC SYSTEM***
Due to Charge Your Car’s continued expansion we are carrying out some vital system maintenance on the evening of Tuesday, January 28th. This work is due to start at 18.30 and last three to four hours, but you may experience some disruption in the service until 08.00 the next morning.
The work being undertaken will impact Charge Points using Open Charge Point Protocol and will mean the posts drop connectivity for a short time.
During this period APT, DBT, Chargemaster and Siemens Charge Points that you have NOT previously used will not accept your CYC card. Your card WILL still work on those manufacturer’s posts that you have previously used, as your card details will be locally cached.
All Elektromotive and SGTE units will still work, regardless of previous use.
Charge Your Car will operate its 24hr emergency helpline as usual during this period although staff will not be able to contact any posts directly to start/end sessions, reset posts or release cables. We will, however, be able to dispatch an engineer to you if you are stuck at a post.
The CYC App will also be down during this time, including the map and ‘find nearby Charge Point’ function
Please let us take this opportunity to apologise for the outage in service – We’re hopeful that this will be a quick and relatively pain free process that will not need repeating.
Charge Your Car Limited.
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