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Rubbish 3rd Party Charging ... again

Discussion in 'The UK and Ireland' started by WannabeOwner, May 21, 2019.

  1. WannabeOwner

    WannabeOwner Active Member

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    Arranged to pick my daughter up from Peterborough Station - she was coming from Up North (and me from Down South). I set a time for her arrival an hour before "critical", she selected a train that arrived another hour before that ... so I said she could wait in a cafe when she arrived, until I got there ...

    Shortly after I left (to arrive Peterborough 1.5 hours before "critical") she called to say that "All trains South are cancelled beyond Doncaster" ... and we started to make plans for an Uber to get her from Doncaster to Grantham where she would either catch an onward train,or I'd pick her up ... as the various confused announcements subsided her original train was then announced to be running ...

    By the by: don't travel on a train on a day when she is using them, this is pretty normal for her - no idea if the trains are always this lousy, or if she has influence.

    Of course the train doesn't keep to timetable and gets progressive delayed as it trundles South

    By the time I am well up the A1 I decide that she'll need some food and I would be better stopped at the Services on the A1 rather than paying to park at Peterborough station. Her train is progressively delayed until ultimately it is scheduled to arrive 18 minutes after "critical". Our day together entails a 200 mile trip for me, so close to max range with a little slack. I've driven conservatively on the way up and am pleased to have beaten the Trip Graph by a fair bit ...

    ... but some spirited driving will now be needed to keep the appointment when she eventually arrives. I remember that there are Ecotricity charges at Peterborough Services on A1 ... and 3 years ago when I first got the car I opened an account ... and have not used it since then. I figure some extra juice will mean I can press on to try to get us there on time.

    Both pumps are unoccupied, I park in the middle bay, of 3, between the pumps and have a look at pump 1. I fire up the APP and it wants Username and Password. Of course I have absolutely no idea what Username I might have created nor, for that matter, what Email address I might have used 3 years ago. So I phone them up instead. The lass that answered couldn't have been more helpful, it turns out that there is a GUEST option (in "quite small print" she told me) at the bottom of the Logon Form on the APP and that was all I needed. So I did that and Bingo! Better still, the pump has CHAdeMO (not sure what I was expecting? Perhaps Type-2 only at best ...)

    So I retrieve my CHAdeMO adaptor (its 3rd ever outing ...) from the Frunk and plug it into the car. Sure enough I find the GUEST option in the APP.

    First screen: Email address, First & Last name, Postcode, select house from list, and tick a T&C's box (or something like that). I curse that my Email address is cumbersome ... note to self to buy domain V.COM and set up address [email protected] for this situation in future ...

    The credit card payment form is next. I type in my card number, notice that my name is spelled wrongly and in any case my card has Initials not First Name ... so I have to scrub all that and type it again ... but there is a button SAVE CARD DETAILS ... now that's handy, I think ...

    Next form is the 3-digit number ... and I'm away. Somewhere in that process was a Photo-OCR of a QR code to enable me to indicate which pump I was using ... I could see the QR image in the box on the screen, but it was finicky getting the right distance away, and "squared up" but after a bit of jiggering it worked.

    Instructions for connecting two different types of nozzle (the older "pull lever to secure" type that I was familiar with and a newer one where you had to do something different instead). That confused me for a while ... but it turns out (I think) that is because some pumps have Type-A and others Type-B ... What? Why? Its not on a sticker on the pump, this is on its LCD screen ... why can't it know what nozzle is fitted to that pump and just show that info? I was already thinking "Need to get on otherwise will run out of time before Daughter needs collecting" ... so I stuffed it into the Tesla Adaptor and it just "clicked" so I figured that was OK. Then there was a thud ...

    Looked at the screen on the pump and it said "Welcome Customer" ... WTF?

    So I got phone out and checked APP which seemed to be in some sort of busy state. So I killed it, and reopened it. Back to the GUEST option again ...

    Blank form. Curses for my complicated email address ... again ... this time I noticed that as I typed my surname it was Autocorrected ... that explains the wrong-name default on the credit card form. Who programs AutoCorrect on a NAME form field?

    Credit Card Form ... its BLANK. WTF? What was that SAVE CARD about then? ... I look at the screen more carefully and it has SAVE CARD or CANCEL ... so basically "SAVE CARD" === "NEXT" :(

    Should I disconnect the CHAdeMO? I leave it all connected so that I can watch the screen on the pump. There are a number of steps it goes through (I forget, but something like Initialising, Checking cable insulation, Handshaking and Charging). This time it failed on the first one ... I'm back to "Welcome Customer"

    OK, in for a Penny ...

    The cable from the second pump will reach, so I swap them over. Yup, all form fields are, again, completely blank but I get them all filled in ... again ... and ... Yeah! it works :)

    I've now had a chance to look at TeslaFi. I selected PARK at 11:18:13 AM and I was CHARGING at 11:40:21 AM - a little over 22 minutes ... TWENTY TWO MINUTES ...

    Keep in mind that I was in a rush because I had limited time to charge before I must depart to meet Daughter's train ... I had not even moved the car to be able to connect to the cable on Pump 2 ... so all this was done in haste without dawdling.

    A nice chap arrived in a Zoe. I explained that Pump 1 wasn't working so I had pulled the cable over from Pump 2. I asked if he needed DC or AC? "AC" ... He moved to the other side of me

    I don't often get the chance to have an EV move next to me, with my window down, like that. I found it really unnerving how quiet it was!

    He then found that the AC connector on that pump was the wrong type, so he moved back to the other side of me ...

    "Can you use both the DC and AC on these pumps at the same time?" I asked

    "Sure" he said

    Sadly turns out you can't :(

    I tell him I'm happy to terminate my charge a bit earlier than necessary, at 12:05:19 I'm up (from 75% at the start) to 95% - handy that CHAdeMO charges faster at the Top End.

    I press the CANCEL CHARGE button on the pump ... nothing seems to happen. Luckily Mr Zoe Driver tells me that I have to use the APP. That takes another minute or so ... and I am disconnected.

    People really put up with this sort of arseache in other brands of EVs? Really? I wish this was a one-off, but every single 3rd party charge I have done has been like this. Actually this one was good, I had no idea that Ecotricity offer a Guest Mode, that's pretty handy for a one off charge (although better still if you have loaded the APP before leaving home ... and if I had registered I think I would have paid 15p / unit instead of 30p / unit, but hey, I can hassle all the way down the A1 to our destination. We arrive with 4 minutes to spare :) )

    Now then: do me a favour: when your mate tells you he's buying an iPace or whatever, think of me and roll around of the floor laughing please :cool:
     
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  2. ewoodrick

    ewoodrick Active Member

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    Buford, GA
    Morals of story:
    • If you are going to be using non-Tesla charging, as all other EVs do, sign up for the various solutions in advance.
    • If you are in a rush, it will always take longer
    • If you are in a rush, slow down, it will take less time if you do it right the first time
     
  3. WannabeOwner

    WannabeOwner Active Member

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    All good points ... but ... :)

    I did sign up in advance. Three years ago :)

    Yeah, 2 is always right ... but 22 minutes to get connected is A Bad Day.

    For 3 I didn't make any mistake, except tossing the wrong coin as to which pump to use. I didn't make any mistakes on the data entry ... even though I did it 3 times over.

    I had a look at some TeslaFi data for Supercharging

    11:50:16 Reverse
    11:50:33 Park
    11:51:21 Charging

    2:17:07 Reverse
    2:17:23 Park
    2:18:20 Charging

    Seems that is pretty consistent at 1 minute (which is the granularity of TeslaFi data logging anyway ) ... and twice the charge rate of CHAdeMO let alone Type-2 of course

    I've got data for one free-vend Type-2 connection

    11:52:10 Reverse
    11:52:27 Park
    11:53:24 Park
    11:54:23 Charging - 2 minutes ... so that's the time to have to get my own Type-2 cable out of the Frunk and hook it up

    First time I used Polar ... including phoning up to sort out the connection that I couldn't get to work from the APP

    5:37:24 Reverse
    5:38:25 Park
    5:57:26 Charging ,,, yup, that was 20 minutes. And over 5 minutes to disconnect because APP didn't work and I had to phone to get released then too

    Polar again ... don't remember having to phone this time:

    9:57:31 Reverse
    9:57:48 Park
    10:03:29 Charging - New Record - only 6 minutes. I've completed a splash-and-dash charges at Superchargers in that time!

    Charge Your Car - first ever CHAdeMO 3rd party charge:

    6:39:22 Reverse
    6:39:39 Park
    6:46:25 Charging. 7 minutes. I had the APP already registered etc. No phone up. Worked first time.

    My wife using that same CHAdeMO and unable to get the APP to work so I had to do it (from home). Some benefit that that is possible I suppose!

    8:58:57 Reverse
    8:59:23 Park
    9:14:28 Charging - so 15 minutes to connect

    pretty sure 3rd party Charging Is Pants ... currently
     
  4. arg

    arg Supporting Member

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    There's several alternatives that you could have used almost directly on your route, though it's hard to argue that you "should" have used them - I'd probably have stuck with Ecotricity as you did on the "better the devil you know" basis. There's an argument that we should stop patronising these operators who give diabolical service, but in Ecotricity's case it's not clear that they care.

    The alternatives for this particular case were:
    • Engenie (2x triple-head units) in a retail park a very short distance the other side of the same A1M junction. These in theory offer easy payment with contactless bank cards which is just what is wanted for irregular/new users, and on the face of it are a good recommendation to use if you were otherwise considering stopping at those services. However, from comments on zap-map they appear to have scored an own-goal by printing a big contactless logo on the RFID reader (that they don't use), distracting you from the separate one on the actual card payment terminal!
    • Geniepoint at a petrol station on a direct route into the town centre. Only a single unit, and the user interface for first-time users is an app. They do have a nice feature that you can register an RFID card (any card that you already have) for convenient use on subsequent visits, but that doesn't help you this time round.
    • Polar. Single unit in an inconvenient location with no refreshments anywhere near, and access system designed to discourage infrequent users (unreliable app, continual upsell to their monthly subscription service).
    • Instavolt - (2x CHAdeMO+CCS units) in a sports centre on the other side of town. Instavolt do offer the charging experience we are looking for (straightforward contactless card payment), 2 or more units at most of their sites, and CHAdeMO/CCS only to discourage hogging.
    So there is hope; Instavolt are doing the right thing and have a lot of locations, though many not ideally located. Engenie also trying to do the right thing but only just getting started (they've been going ages but only recently got funding to expand from their initial couple of sites). Geniepoint are mediocre. Polar are aggressively trying to do the wrong thing (they think charging should be like mobile phones where you subscribe to one network and only use that network's coverage). Ecotricity aren't doing anything and we seem to be on a long wait for them to either go bust or get bought out so a competent operator can pick up their locations - let's hope it's not Polar.
     
  5. Yev000

    Yev000 Member

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    Sounds like you need a password manager. Dashlane is pretty good - can also save credit cards and auto fill in forms, although maybe not on a mobile phone... Or KeyPass if you don't want to pay.
     
  6. cezdoc

    cezdoc Member

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    Location:
    Aberdeen, UK
    +1 for Instavolt - relatively pricey but well worth it for an occasional charge. One opened near me so I did a test charge to see what the experience was like & it met expectation: clear, easy-to-use, only requires a contactless payment card. Definitely top of my search list should I be in need of an emergency charge in an unfamiliar location. I hope they'll still be in business in 3 years' time when I next need an emergency charge...
    +1 also for a password manager. Great for those situations where you're short on time in an unfamiliar environment and trying to recall an account set up years ago (i.e. a typical public charging scenario). I have literally scores of accounts connected with EV ownership.

    At least living in Scotland I have access to a national network with a single charge provider, plus the benefit of using a Type 2 / CHAdeMO often enough to be familiar with the procedure. Even so, I can't log in to the app on my phone so rely entirely on the RFID card. I've ended up setting up a second account as customer support weren't able to help me resolve it.
     
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  7. WannabeOwner

    WannabeOwner Active Member

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    Thanks. Does it work with iPhone APP forms? Unlike the Google Chrome Browser, I don't seem to have an APPs that "remember" values that I have put into them, which is frustrating. Tesla APP I have to type in my full email address each time it wants me to login again (and password too of course, but that's fine)

    Until you write a User Experience Guide :)

    I knew the A1 Peterborough services, have stopped there often as it was just the right place to grab a bite for Young Sprog who I was Uber-ing that way often back then, so no hunt-the-car-park for the stalls, and also knew that I already had registration with Ecotricity.

    There again, maybe this is a Tesla problem. I 3rd-party charge SO rarely, and almost always with range for Supercharger and looking for 3rd party just to either save me Supercharging or reduce the dwell-time. That said this is third attempt this year: I found a Type-2 available, and free, at Bodnant in February. Didn't need it, but the couple of hours I was walking around the garden meant I didn't have to Hypermile to Supercharger on the way home. Found an unoccupied Type-2 at RHS Wisley too in April... but it turns out it (the second, of two, the first was in-use) has been broken for over a year. Shame on the RHS for a) only providing two and b) allowing the excuse of "rebuilding" to mean they can't be arsed to do anything about it for so long.

    Could have done with one yesterday at Tatton Park (went o see the Azaleas in flower ... bit of a theme there :) ) but no EV chargers at all there ... Shame on them too. Keele within easy reach of course ...

    And whilst I'm on soap box why do these sites provide charging for free? Free=abused. I don't mind if it is cheap, but EV owners being given stuff for free just means it brings out the worst in some people.

    If I was in a jam I would use Plugshare - indeed I did before going to Wisley to figure out where, in their huge car park, the charger was (and had to get past the officials who were wanting to park me in the next available block). Plugshare gives me some idea of recent failures, but I am pretty sure it does not have a filter for CCS-power (surely iPace etc. will want to find nearby chargers sorted by Best Power first? - and probably some sort of Reliability rating too?) and it also does not have "How easy is the flipping thing to use" and "Is there a rock-up & card-swipe option" ... all data that could easily be crowd-sourced.

    Is Zap Map any better? As my first-stop is Plugshare I don't know ZapMap well.

    Anything that made recognising me easier than "Type in your email address [it hasn't changed, right?] and go through a whole, time consuming, Forgotten Password routine" would be a help. On a Browser that's pretty trivial, all data for all questions is remembered ... but (subject to earlier point) I don't have that in any APPs/

    here's an idea: plug the car in and have the stall ask the Car for ID ... <sigh>

    Sorry @arg, can't offer you a job in Marketing !

    Am I mis-remembering that BP bought Polar?
     
  8. arg

    arg Supporting Member

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    Just a small correction since subsequent discussion is drawing the distinction between webpage and app: Geniepoint's UI is in fact a mobile-optimised webpage rather than an app.

    Some of the others do have webpages with comparable functionality to their apps:
    • Podpoint - full functionality, but sized for desktop use, can be used on mobile.
    • Ecotricity - full functionality, intended for phone use, but for some reason kept secret! Electric Highway

    However:
    • Polar - no capability to start a charge.
    • CYC - no capability to start a charge. Not at all mobile-optimised even for the functions it does support.
     
  9. Yev000

    Yev000 Member

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    I use android and it works there. You just need to enable some settings such as "allowing drawing over apps". It's not 100% reliable and when the icon does not come up you can still do things manually by going to Dashlane and copying the password.

    This is where KeyPass is better in a way, it provides a notification you can copy from. Again this is on android so no idea how that would work on iphone.

    Both apps are free so you can try them out. With KeyPass you do need to create and host the file on some cloud storage you can access on your phone, with Dashlane they store your passwords so its a bit simpler however if you want to sync multiple devices you do need to buy premium which is USD 39.99 per year. Yes you do pay in USD...
     
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  10. arg

    arg Supporting Member

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    While this is very true, I think it's excusable for destination charging: the small value and potentially infrequent use mean that the cost of collecting the fee can easily exceed the cost of the charging in the first place. Also, with small-scale destination charging you can't reasonably expect to depend on it: it's a nice bonus if it works, but you don't expect to queue up if the point is already in use when you arrive. The cost balance might change in the future if typical carparks have large rows of slow chargepoints and a payment terminal at the end of the row. At the moment for the sort of location that might spend a very modest amount of money to put in one or two free chargepoints, it's not reasonable to demand that they spend twice as much money on the hardware and more on top for ongoing costs of the network connection etc against a possible payback if enough people start to use it.

    For rapid charging on the other hand I agree that free is extremely undesirable. Unfortunately there are some cases where the driver's and the owner's interests aren't aligned. Lidl have placed a number of single-unit triple-head rapids in their supermarket carparks, free of charge to use so often occupied by people who don't really need the charge. This is extremely undesirable viewed as part of the national charging infrastructure, but you have to realise that Lidl aren't in the business of operating a national charging network - they just want to offer a nice perk to their shoppers. Installing lots of units to meet the demand for the free service would make it unaffordable. Imposing charges so it pays for itself would make it no longer a perk for their shoppers so defeat the point of having them. Charging a fee and making it a stand-alone business would be possible, but it's not the business they are in and many of their sites are smaller without the spare land to support expansion into charging.

    For both destination and Rapid charging, there's a distinction between "infrastructure actively intended as a service for itinerant drivers" and "chargepoints installed for some private purpose, that you might be able to use if you are lucky". None of the available maps (including operators own) capture this distinction well.

    You want both for the full story, IMO. Zap-Map is primarily sourced from the network operators and official databases, so it's more complete than PlugShare (sometimes too much so in that it includes points that no longer exist), though it does now have crowd-sourced comments. PlugShare is primarily crowd-sourced and generally better for "local knowledge" for those locations it does capture.

    Personally, I start with Zap-map to see what's there, then cross-check PlugShare if I care enough to want more detail.

    Coming eventually with CCS (and can be used for AC charging on CCS-equipped cars). But it seems a few years away from significant deployment, and many years away from being universal.

    Drat. There goes my career progression plan...

    You remember correctly.
     
  11. WannabeOwner

    WannabeOwner Active Member

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    I was afraid you would say that.

    My 2p-worth (open to being corrected):

    ZapMap has sexy presentation onscreen, but as is typical of designed-by-designers the tiddly pop-up window with the info (e.g. about a particular site) is a challenge to be able to find what you need and involves lots of scrolling and click-to-other-screen stuff

    PlugShare: Visibility of all the chargers at the site (i.e. which ones are CHAdeMO/Type-2 and which are CHAdeMO/CCS) and User Feedback comments "at a glance" - all in a single, large, easily digestible, screen

    Biggest problem is that the most recent "it didn't work" is commonly a month ago, and most recent "it did work" might well be a week or two.

    Dunno the answer to that ... have PlugShare APP run in background and force you to put in a status when you stop at a Charger site? :)

    Also, for the ones I looked at, Pump Location (on the map) was more accurate in PlugShare. That's pretty important in a big car park when visiting for the first time

    I find ZapMap (in Browser) slow too. Type in URL then have to press DISPLAY MAP and then wait a good length of time before MAP appears so that I can then type in, e.g. YORK

    PlugShare is immediately up with the MAP and search box for YORK

    OK ... then I'm at a loss as to why they are still hell-bent on Subscription Model. I can understand BP buying them for "national coverage" ... but I would have expected BP to be hard at work to fix the Public Image first (which can be done just by The Boss Said So) and fix the crummy Hardware second - I understand that isn't just a wave-of-the-wand job.
     

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