How can I find a charging station for my LEAF?

by Ernie Hernandez on March 13, 2011

OC Irvine Nissan public charging stations

OC Irvine Nissan public charging stations

EV charging infrastructure locations not easy to locate

Charge Map Link Description (updated March 18, 2012) All maps use Google interactive user maps.
PlugShare PlugShare seems to be the most up-to-date tracking mechanism for charge stations at the moment. Search by address or zip code in the search box, or just start your search on the map. Offers ability to upload info on new stations. User updatable location information. Offers the ability to upload information on privately owned residential charge stations that are available for sharing (thus the name). Filter charging locations by residential or public charging stations, but there is no ability to filter by type (ie: J1772, Tesla, 120-volt, etc). Home, Public, and DC fast charge stations are represented by different icons.
CarStations Search by zip code or address or just navigate using the map. Offers ability to upload info on new stations. User updatable location information. Filter charging locations by: Connector type – ie: J1772, NEMA5 (120V), NEMA 1450 (240V), Tesla, Avcon, DC Quick Charge, SPI, LPI, Other. Also filter by equipment brand/affiliation – ie: Coulomb/ChargePoint, Blink/Ecotality, GE Wattstation, etc.
U. S. Department of Energy Not as easy to navigate, but comprehensive info provided. Color coded map of United States shows charge station density by state. Click on any state for a list of station locations by city name in alphabetical order within the state. “Details” link offers facility name and phone number, street address, access times, type of charging equipment, number of charge stations, network affiliation and date last confirmed. Map link offers a link to a Google map with locations noted with a small gray triangle. Triangle link gives detailed info also (same as that found by clicking “detail” link). No user updatable info on current equipment functionality.
EV Charger Maps Floating dialog box allows selection of location by address or zip code. Also found via EV Charger News website. As of 8/15/2011 poor representation of known charge facilities showing no J1772 charge locations. Filter by SPI, LPI, AVC, TSL, DCQ, J1772, OC.
Blink Network Shows only those charge stations supported by Ecotality’s EV Project. Shows locations, units available, in use, and offline. Offers Googles “Get Directions” capability. Filter by Level 2, DC Fast Charger, Available, In Use, Offline.
ChargePoint Network Shows only those charge stations supported by ChargePoint Network. Info available: facility name, address, connection type, availability, access (unrestricted or restricted) and price. Filter by Level 1, Level 2, DC Fast charge, Available, In use, Future/Unavailable.

A blog last week stated that Google was now offering up charging locations via Google Maps (search “EV charging stations”). So we checked it out. For LEAF owners, this map in its current form is virtually worthless. A search on Bing or Yahoo! is no better.

As you likely know, LEAF uses a J1772 connection for Level 2 (240 volt charging) and a CHAdeMO connection for 440 volt DC fast charging. Plus, the included Level 1 charger needs just a 120 volt outlet (and plenty of time). The Google maps give no indication of what type of connection is offered, which makes the location information of little value. Most of the locations indicated are obsolete equipment that may or may not actually still be in service. So we searched “EV charging stations J1772″. This just brought up a list of manufacturers and blog posts about J1772 infrastructure, but no map.

Looking to other known providers offered some help. There are two government subsidized programs providing infrastructure build-out with the launch of the Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt – ChargePoint America using Coulomb Technologies equipment and The EV Project using ECOtality equipment. Each offers a map of their charging locations. Let’s take a look.

The EV Project map is just about as useless as the Google map. The locations shown are existing locations, and when a location is clicked on, while it does give the business name and address, it just says “existing”. No mention of whether the station is Level 1, Level 2 or both, nor does it offer the connection type. Most “existing” stations listed currently offer obsolete connections.

The ChargePoint America “Find Charging Stations” map is much more intuitive, and much more useful right from the start. The first graphic that you see will be the entire United States. On this map are blue dots with black numbers. You got it… the numbers indicate how many charge stations are in the area. Click on the blue dot near Houston, Texas with the number 23 on it (currently), and the map zooms to an area centered on Houston and extending out approximately 50 miles from the city. Now there are several more blue dots (which numbers total to 23). Click on these dots and the map zooms in again.

As important as the location information is the following – Status (Available, In use, Future/Unavailable), Power Level (Level 1, Level 2 (Including J1772 info), DC Fast), Pricing and Reservation information. Also available is Access information – unrestricted or time available. All stations are currently free as part of the ChargePoint America data gathering mission. At some point in the future, these stations will convert to a pay-as-you-go system. All other providers would do well to look at the ChargePoint America model as the gold standard.

Nissan also offers two publicly available Level 2 J1772 charge stations during business hours at all Certified LEAF dealers. Currently Nissan offers no map on the LEAF site to provide this information (although we have requested that one be provided). Ultimately this information will be made available via CARWINGS, but that is currently not the case.

Finally, we have found one site that is updated by users (Electric Car Stations). While it has some similarity to the ChargePoint America design, we found it extremely slow to load on one occasion and somewhat faster on another. It does not have the scope of information that ChargePoint America does, but it does provide equipment and connection type. This ultimately may prove to be a very beneficial site if they can provide consistent connection speed and reliable info from their users, which we would expect to be the case.

As more electric vehicles (EVs) hit the roadways, it will be important to know where your “Plan B” is. While we generally have a good idea of where we are headed each day, plans change and with an EV, it is comforting to know that you will be able to get some additional juice when and where you need it.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Ron Solberg March 14, 2011 at 6:21 am

We have charging stations here in Hills, MN.
http://electric.carstations.com/1247

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) March 14, 2011 at 10:44 am

Ron – welcome to Living LEAF. Thanks for your input. While Minnesota is not one of the rollout states, it’s good to see infrastructure going in already. We think that the Electric Car Stations site has promise if it can get a faster server.

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indyflick March 14, 2011 at 6:44 pm

I wonder why the Nissan dealerships EVSE aren’t in CARWINGS? Those are actually the only EV charging infrastructure available in San Diego. Seems like Nissan would make sure those are in there when you pick up your LEAF. The EV Project is a complete disaster. They need to shut that down and start over.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) March 15, 2011 at 12:13 am

indy – that is truly beyond understanding. Nissan has never been great from the IT side, but this truly deserves a total re-think.

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Ron Solberg March 14, 2011 at 8:49 pm

I read in the paper that the power company serving Rochester, MN has an EVSE up and running and that the screen reads the charging rate as $1.50/hour. The report stated the installation cost $8000. Here in the SW corner of MN, we shop in Sioux Falls, SD. Shopping today, I drove by a new, soon to open BP gas station. I have seen pictures of BP EVSE stations at their gas stations in other states but I saw only gas pumps here. Reading that Ford was working with Best Buy and their Geek Squad to sell EVSE units direct to consumers, I checked to find that locally, Best Buy and Ford are not yet ready to make a move. Also, locally Nissan showed little interest in me as a possible Leaf customer. I had hoped that Sioux Falls would show more interest. So it seems that we have a ways to go.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) March 15, 2011 at 12:17 am

Ron, as you mention, it may be some time before any manufacturer will offer EVs in that area. While individuals may have an interest, as you can imagine, a manufacturer (and the dealers) need a strong enough market to warrant bringing a new vehicle to market ( be it electric or high-performance – such as the GT-R).

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Chris March 17, 2011 at 8:58 am

Unfortunately Ron, you live in a cold area – which will put you very last in line for electric cars. No manufacturer wants to deal with the complaints caused by the drastically reduced range. My guess is the northern US won’t see a real EV rollout until the 3rd generation, somewhere around 2015. Of course, there will be a few imported from other areas, and the east coasters won’t want to be left out so there will be a couple of EV’s roaming NY/Boston – but those will be early adopters.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) March 17, 2011 at 10:38 pm

Ron – I agree with Chris in concept… I think it will be awhile before cars are delivered in cold climates, although I will not speculate as to when that might be. Although LEAF in Japan already offers heated seats and steering wheel, we do not know for certain when it will be available here, nor do we know if it includes or will include a battery conditioning system.

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Ron Solberg April 3, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Yes, our 2000 S10 EV experience with cold weather led us to put heated floors in the new building for our charging stations, http://electric .carstations.com1247. So I also agree with Chris that it will be awhile before a Leaf comes our way. On the other hand, as of mid March, in my area, MN and SD Nissan Dealers have Aerovironment EVSE units. I am very encouraged by this. Now our EVSE units here in Hills, MN have some company and maybe soon, some customers.

Ron Solberg

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Ron Solberg April 3, 2011 at 6:27 pm

http://electric.carstations.com/1247
Sorry, I got the link wrong.

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Brad S. March 17, 2012 at 3:55 pm

I have used several of the iPhone apps for finding charging stations. I have found the PlugShare App to be the most reliable and up to date. The different types of stations (L2, L3 and residences) all have different symbols. Users can add stations and request that out of date/mislabled stations be deleted. CarStations is OK, but is not as up to date and has the same symbol for all station types. I agree with others comments that Nissan needs to start over with the software integrated into the LEAF.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) March 18, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Brad – Welcome to Living LEAF. After comparing PlugShare and CarStations, I have to agree that PlugShare is more up to date. This means it likely has a larger subscriber base than CarStations as they are both updated by users. That said, CarStations does offer the ability to filter by type of station, so if all you are looking for is J1772 charging docks, you can find them – assuming of course that someone has entered them into the system. PlugShare does not offer this level of granularity. PlugShare also has various lightning bolt colors on their icons. I have yet to figure them out. Still, if one is in need of a charge station, PlugShare is worth knowing about, and I will add it to the above list.

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Barbara January 25, 2013 at 8:15 pm

Why are fast charging stations so hard to find? It makes total sense to offer them along major freeways between cities to allow us greater use of our EVs. Eg I would live to find a fast charge along I-5 en route to the coast. Any ideas about this?

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) January 26, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Barbara – Welcome to Living LEAF. DC quick charge stations firstly, are significantly more expensive to acquire, and to install, than the 240-volt charge station that you might have in your garage at home. The EV Project stated that they would have 63 DC quick charge stations deployed in the greater San Diego market by the end of 2012. Obviously, that did not happen. Most everyone in the industry has overestimated the inroads that EVs would make. This includes the manufacturers, as well as EVSE network providers. In addition, in the California utility marketplace, there are currently very high charges (called demand charges) that any electicity user must pay if electricity usage demand exceeds a certain amount, which the quick chargers do. These two hurdles must be overcome before we see widespread distribution of DC quick chargers throughout the state. We have found one of the best sources for new equipment to be plugshare.com, as anyone can update plugshare’s database. If you are heading north from San Diego, there is a quick charge station in San Juan Capistrano that can be found on plugshare.com. And thanks for the inquiry. I think one of my next posts will be about the status of quick charging installations. Keep in mind that some QC stations reduce the rate at which they charge to avoid incurring the demand charge. It would be wise to check prior to arrival (via plugshare or the network provider’s site) to determine the charge rate of that particular location. You want to be sure to allow enough time for your needed charge.

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