Michigan Spring: Daffodils and Public Chargers are Popping Up

Forget morels!  Let's find public chargers!
Image source: Karl Bloss
Despite Michigan's quarantine for non-essential travel, Michiganders are still permitted to drive out for essential and even recreational motorcycling is an approved activity.  As such, my Zero DSR electric motorcycle has been a wonderful way to experience some fresh air and even run some essential errands like getting milk from my favorite milk source Country Dairy in New Era, MI.  

Another good excuse to get out is to find new public chargers.  Michigan utility Consumers Energy has been running the PowerMIDrive program that provides rebates for both at-home* and public charging infrastructure.  That means despite a slowdown in construction due to COVID-19, public chargers are still going in and will continue to pop up during 2020.

* For more detail on eligible home chargers, see the Consumers Energy Home Charger Rebates page.  

ChargePoint station at First and Western in Muskegon
Image source: Karl Bloss

PlugShare

PlugShare is still one of the best tools for finding public chargers for plug-in vehicle owners.  If you haven't downloaded the app, I encourage you to do so (see direct links below)!  It's free and with its crowd-sourced feedback, check-ins and pictures, in my opinion it's the best tool out there for this purpose.  

While its original intent was to share your home charger with others or finding other EV owners with such an offer, PlugShare has long since extended its utility to locating public chargers and finding out if they're reliably functional.  Large charging networks and some business owners are quick to list new chargers, but not everyone does.  Other site hosts of new chargers are not familiar with PlugShare and new additions don't get listed until an EV owner stumbles across them.

If you're an avid geocacher, you know the term "First to Find" which is the thrill of finding a brand new cache.  I view finding and adding public chargers to PlugShare similarly rewarding.  

Public charger hunting we go!

Muskegon ChargePoint at 5th and Western
Image source: Karl Bloss

ChargePoint 

In my home town of Muskegon, we have seen some 2020 charger installations with the replacement of several of the downtown and beach locations.  Check ChargePoint.com or the ChargePoint app for the latest, but here are some PlugShare links for the new or upgraded locations in Muskegon:
I've personally check all of these and they feature 2 J1772 plugs each and all are free with a ChargePoint account.  Use your app or RFID cards to activate.  If you'll be hanging out downtown Muskegon, look me up and we can grab a coffee.  

Great Lakes Energy Co-Op in Newaygo
Image source: Karl Bloss

Great Lakes Energy Co-Op

In addition to just stumbling on new public EV chargers, I also scan PlugShare, ChargePoint, Tesla, EVGo, Electrify America and several other EV charging network pages or apps occasionally to see if they have listed any new charge points.  I spied a newly listed location in Newaygo (PlugShare link).  It showed no pictures or check-ins, so it was time for a road trip.  

Newaygo

We wanted to make a trip to Whispering Pines Country Store anyway, so we made a slight detour from Fremont to Newaygo.  Sure enough, we found a fully functional Wattzilla station with dual 80 Amp (that's nearly 20 KW!!!) J1772 connectors.  No authorization, cards or networks required.  Just plug in and charge.  Thank you Great Lakes Energy!  

Beefy cables on the Wattzilla 80A stations
Image source: Karl Bloss 
The Newaygo location is a fantastic addition since it's located in a virtual charging desert and the location is right next to 3 fast food restaurants and near a grocery store.  While not a DC fast charger, it's still a welcome addition and gives those charging some options for amenities like food, coffee, and restrooms.

By the way, check out that massive coiled cable.  80 Amps at 240 Volt will give full power to even a Tesla with factory-installed dual onboard chargers and the new Zero SR/S motorcycle's onboard charger.  Of course as discussed in the Home Charging Basics essay, charging speed is limited by the weakest link in the charging chain, which in this case will like be your vehicle's onboard charger.  My LEAF charged at 6.6 KW at Newaygo based on its onboard charger limit.  
Great Lakes Energy Co-Op Hart
Image source: Karl Bloss


Spreading the News - Scottville

I posted this find on the West Michigan EV Facebook group and another member was inspired to check out his local Great Lakes Energy Co-Op location in Scottville and sure enough, there was also a new public charger which he promptly added to PlugShare.  

Another Find: Hart

Spotting a trend and using Google Maps to find other Great Lakes Energy Co-Op locations, the Hart center was my next target for an excuse to ride my Zero on a sunny day.  

Upon arrival, I spotted the new familiar installation of a large sign, dual 80A Wattzilla station with fat read coiled cables.  Another successful "First to Find", it was added to PlugShare.

Other Locations?

Great Lakes Energy Co-Op has other locations like Reed City, Kalkaska, Otsego Lake Township along with their headquarters in Boyne.  If you have the opportunity to drive by one of those locations, please stop in and look for a public charging station, add it to PlugShare and take some pictures.  

Please check in!
Image source: Karl Bloss

PlugShare  

WIIFM?

"What's in it for me?"  When we are all able to travel more freely again, firing up PlugShare and being able to plan your route with tools like the PlugShare Trip Planner using reliable current information on charger availability and condition is extremely helpful.

This past winter, I used the public charger at Crystal Mountain Ski Area (PlugShare link) several times. Through the listing, successful charges by other users and pictures, I knew this location to be reliable before I arrived.

Please Add ...

PlugShare is one of the best tools we have to find charging away from home.  Whether it's listing your own home station, finding unlisted stations, finding a campground or hotel that's willing to let you charge with a 50A RV plug or even a standard 110V plug, please add your finds.

... Check-In ...

I know it's one more thing to do, but please fire up your PlugShare app (iOS app/Android app) when charging and let people know you're successfully charging, how longer you expect to be there, you couldn't charge, or just leave a note about a great coffee shop around the corner.  If you find all the stations occupied, try checking PlugShare to see if one of them checked in and you might be able to send them a message asking when they'll be done with their charge.

... and Take a Picture

If possible, snap a picture of the charger, especially if it's hard to spot and upload it to PlugShare.  And yeah, a picture of your dog or kid with the station is cute, but the picture more useful if showing where the charger is located, nearby amenities, and details on anything that might be broken, ICE vehicles blocking it, etc.  

Happy EV road tripping and keep charging ahead!


Resources:

If you are in the market for a Tesla Model S, Model X, or Model 3, Tesla has reestablished its referral program.  Feel free to use my referral code to get 1,000 miles of free Supercharging (at the time of this publishing) for your Tesla:  http://ts.la/karl5062

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