The lack of interoperability between different electric car charging networks is a well-known curse to electric car drivers, filling up many forums as plug-in car owners ask time and time again why different charging providers just can’t get along — and why paying for electricity to charge your car isn’t as easy as paying for gasoline.
In some countries, there are so many different charging networks that drivers need to carry a wallet of access cards and key fobs just to ensure that they can charge up at every charging station they encounter. Even then, there’s usually at least one charging station that doesn’t want to play ball.
But while most of us have taken to venting our frustration on social media networks when things don’t go our way, one New Zealander decided there was only one way to highlight the frustration of the longer-distance electric car owner: dress up in a suit and tie and make a formal video complaint.
Enter New Zealand native and plug-in driver Gavin Shoebridge, who chose to turn the misfortune of a recent failed fast charging experience into an entertaining and informative video on the trials and tribulations of public charging infrastructure.
It’s a video that anyone who has been in the same situation will instantly warm to.
As those who have been around in the plug-in vehicle world for any length of time will know, Gavin ‘KiwiEV’ Shoebridge first shot to YouTube fame eight years ago when he converted a dead 1987 Mitsubishi Tredia to run on electricity.
His videos were informative, fun, and most importantly, showed how easy it was to get into electric cars in an age long before the Nissan LEAF or Chevrolet Volt.
Despite a year and a half of fun with an electric car, Gavin had to part with his converted car all too soon as rust and the global economic crisis hit in a double-whammy of bad luck. Deciding to move to his wife’s native Slovakia, Gavin was forced to shelve his dream of electric vehicle ownership and started a new chapter of his life in the centre of Europe.
Even though his time with that home-made electric car was relatively short, Gavin maintains that his love of electric cars has never waved, and has spent most of the intervening years trying to figure out a way to build or buy another electric car.
So when he discovered that legal red tape in Slovakia made it almost impossible to build an electric car from scratch, he did the only thing he could: started saving for a production electric car of his own.
After years of hard work in his day job that day came earlier this spring, when he stumbled on a nearly-new Peugeot iOn electric car for sale. After a quick, intoxicating drive, an offer was accepted on the car — essentially a rebadged Mitsubishi i-Miev — and Gavin was yet again Kiwi EV, complete with a personalised license plate to prove it.
Since then, we — and we’re sure many others — have been enjoying watching Gavin find his feet again as an electric car owner, enjoying the thrill of not having to pay for gasoline, the quiet smooth ride of an electric car, and the various day trips possible only when the cost of fuelling your vehicle for the trip is negligible.
Which brings us nicely onto the problem at hand. Recently, Gavin decided to take a weekend trip over the border from Slovakia to Austria in order to purchase salted liquorish, a delicacy that isn’t easy to obtain in his new home of Bratislava.
With his electric car fully charged, he set off for Vienna — about a full charge away — with the aim of using an Austrian fast charger to replenish his Peugeot iOn’s battery pack before heading home. Checking on the charge status before he left, Gavin was sure the VIBRATe charge car he owned would grant him access to the charging station. Designed to supposedly operate across the entire VIBRATe Vienna-Bratislava electromobility network of electric car fast charging networks, Gavin said he was convinced there wouldn’t be an issue.
After more than 30 minutes on the telephone to the charging provider in Vienna — and despite the support team trying everything they could to force the charger to accept his card — Gavin was left with no other option but to find somewhere else to charge.
“I offered to pay with a credit card to recharge my car at the fast charger if it was a payment issue, but it was due to technical incompatibility combined. To use that quick charger I needed a different card with a different company,” he told us via email earlier.
It’s a problem we know only too well. Last year, we abandoned a cross-European trip by electric car after crossing into mainland Europe slowed progress to a glacial crawl thanks to inoperable public charging infrastructure.
In Gavin’s case, the only solution left was a slow charging station in a parking garage. With an Internal Combustion Engine car blocking direct access to the charging station, Gavin was forced to execute a rather unusual parking manoeuvre to ensure the charge cable reached the back of his bright red car. And then wait for three hours for enough charge to make it home.
As he notes in his video, there are plenty of worse places to be stranded than Vienna, Austria, but in conclusion, Gavin’s point hits the mark perfectly.
“Fast charge providers,” he says, suited up despite the hot summer weather. “I can drive into any gas station in any country on earth with just cash or a credit card and I know that I can fill up and drive away.”
“Electric car fast charging station MUST be that easy for mass adoption. I should be able to pay by credit card. I should be able to pay by SMS. Just give me option to pay to buy your product. Don’t make me sign up for ten thousand membership cards.”
“Electric car technology is not holding them back anymore,” he continues. “The batteries are great. The cost of electric cars is not holding them back any more. The only thing holding up mass adoption is you guys,” he says, pointing at the camera.
We’re sure plenty of electric car fans around the world agree with Gavin’s well-presented appeal, but we’re curious as to how many charging providers will take notice.
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