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TonyWilliams
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Location: San Diego
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Letter to Ecotality/Blink concerning Balboa Park Failures

Sat Mar 17, 2012 12:11 am

What a mess, but they are trying! March 30, 2012 update:

Rueben H. Fleet Science Museum:

Serial number:
102309
*103115 (fixed, 3/20/12, down again 3/24 self test fail)*
103173 (fixed, 3/20/12) >the handicap spot<


Pan American Plaza / Palisades / Aviation Museum:

Note: all 7 went down Wed, 3/28, when the breaker was tripped (or deliberately switched off)

Serial number:
*205600 (down 3/21, up 3/24, won't read card 3/27) >the handicap spot<*
103119 (down 3/24, up 3/27)
103127 (down, 3/21, up 3/24)
*200917 (fixed, 3/20, down 3/27)*
*211133 (down, 3/30)
*208124 (down, 3/21, intermittent 3/27)*
205222 (fixed, 3/20)


From: Tony Williams <TonyWilliams AT LoveMyLeaf DOTT com>
Date: March 18, 2012 1:54:44 AM PDT
To: "support@blinknetwork.com" <support@blinknetwork.com>
Subject: One Year of Failed Electric Car Charging Stations

Blink Network Contact Center
e: support@blinknetwork.com
d:+1.888.998.2546

Dear Ecotality / Blink Network,

Today, I drove my Nissan LEAF electric car to the City of San Diego's Balboa Park, where the first 10 of your company's Blink EVSE's (commonly referred to as chargers) were installed almost one year ago. In the time since their installation, I have used those chargers many times, and in that time, there has routinely been a failure of one or more units.

When these units were installed last summer, there were 100 Nissan LEAFs in all of San Diego, in addition to a small number of other cars that could use the chargers. Now, there are almost 1000 Nissan LEAFs and over 200 Smart electric vehicles from Car2Go fighting for these spots, in addition to other electric vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt and Mitsubishi iMiev.

When I plugged in today, I was not surprised to see another charger failure in Balboa Park. What struck me as odd is that almost a year after their installation, 40% of the Blink chargers on this day had obvious failures. I didn't test the remaining 60% to actually verify that they would work, but its a reasonable guess that not all of those would work either.

So, I called your customer service, as I have done many times previously to report failed Blink chargers in Balboa Park, and spoke to one of your representatives. She listened to me bemoan what she already knew. She verified that there are outstanding service tickets, and that your company was working to "fix" these chargers. She went on to suggest that the San Diego area power outage that happened on September 9, 2011 (over six months ago) was somehow to blame. In addition, she said that electrical "noise" needed to be filtered out at the site, and that the Blink membership card readers (RFID) were somehow interfering with the SD card memory chip. It sure sounds like a lot of issues.

Just to be clear, these units at Balboa Park routinely failed long before the single power outage of 2011. I can only imagine how poorly they would handle places where winter power outages are somewhat routine. If they are so poorly designed to not be able to withstand a simple power outage, that is itself a huge problem.

Here's the overall problem. It doesn't take a year to fix these problems. After a breathtaking amount of taxpayer money that has been spent by the US government (your company has drawn over $30 million of the $100 million in DOE grant money for electric vehicle chargers) and money spent by the City of San Diego to have these chargers, they should all work now. If you cannot somehow make your units work, and that clearly is the case, then within a few hours, you should have a working replacement installed. Or your company could use one of your competitor's EVSE's / chargers mounted and operational that can now be purchased in retail locations all over San Diego, including Lowes and Home Depot. Or eBay. Or overnight shipped from California manufacturer Clipper Creek, whose units are the standard of durability.

It is not unprecedented that your company use a Clipper Creek CS-40 model electric vehicle charger to replace one of your failed units. This has been done by your company with residential customers in the past who also have failed Blink chargers in their homes. Edit: Your recent DC quick charger installations in Oregon did not include your Blink units, either, but instead are DC quick chargers from competing company AeroVironment, even though your company reported building and shipping 61 of your Blink DC quick chargers in fourth quarter 2011.

After almost a year of continuous, documented, repeated failures, it's time for an intervention. I am, today, notifying the appropriate government agencies involved in this unfulfilled government contract. Your failed chargers neither charge cars, nor report the data of their charging, which is also your contracted task per the DOE specifications.

No technician was at the Balboa Park site repairing or replacing these units yesterday, or today, and most likely won't be tomorrow either. It is time for the respective government agencies to ENFORCE the provisions of your government contracts. If your company cannot fulfill them, there are others who can. Government funds need to be frozen until such time as the terms of the contract are met, or those funds given to another company or companies who can successfully complete and comply with the terms of the government funding.

I don't expect a response from your company that these units at Balboa Park will be operational on Monday, like they could be. Or Tuesday. Or Wednesday.

Since it is a relatively simple task for a technician to replace these units in minutes to hours, from any number of available sources, I'll check each day until Wednesday to see if they are operational.

Then, should they not be, I intend to contact the various news sources like Fox News, that would love nothing more than to get a story of "fleecing America" with yet another failed government program. Failed programs with solar or electric cars seem to be quite popular now. We can explore a wide range of issues related to your company's performance with regards to not only durability of your products, but also timelines as to the numbers of chargers deployed, et al.

I hope the best for you and your company, both now, and after the DOE money has ended. 

Sincerely,

Tony Williams
San Diego

CC: 
*San Diego Developed Regional Parks Division
*San Diego Mayor’s Economic Growth Services
*U.S. Department of Energy

*******************************************

On Mar 18, 2012, at 2:44 AM, "Support, Blink Network" <support@blinknetwork.com> wrote:

Good Morning,
 
  Thank you for the time you’ve taken to write to BLINK Network, and to express the frustration you are feeling with the BLINK units in Balboa Park.
 
  Your email, in full, will be forwarded to the project manager for the San Diego ECOtality field office, along with a list of currently-in-process tickets and the serial numbers they refer to. In addition, a copy will be forwarded to the corporate office.
 
  We here at the Contact Center are sorry for the problems with the public charging stations that you’ve encountered. We take all matters reported to us about the BLINK EVSEs very seriously and we do appreciate knowing the locations where significant problems are either not being addressed after escalation, or are repeatedly re-occurring after the units have been serviced.
 
 
Best Regards,
 
 
Robert Nowaczewski
Blink Network Contact Center
e: support@blinknetwork.com| d: +1.888.998.2546
Last edited by TonyWilliams on Sat Mar 31, 2012 2:40 am, edited 11 times in total.

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walterbays
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Re: Open Letter to Ecotality / Blink Network

Sat Mar 17, 2012 9:29 am

TonyWilliams wrote:When these units were installed last summer, there were 100 Nissan LEAFs in all of San Diego, in addition to a small number of other cars that could use the chargers. Now, there are over 1000 Nissan LEAFs and over 200 Smart EV's fighting for these spots.
This highlights the other problem, discussed continually here: numbers. In summer 2011 there were 100 cars and 10 charging stations, a 10:1 ratio. I believe San Diego has more like 1,200 Leafs now, and probably 200 or more Volts and a handful of Teslas, iMievs, and BMWs. Now there are 77 Blink stations on the San Diego map to serve probably 1,600 cars, a 21:1 ratio. That makes malfunctioning stations a much bigger problem.

Summer 2011 when they opened the first public charging stations was the originally planned completion date for full deployment of 1,450 L2 stations in San Diego (15,000 nationwide), to serve a projected population of 5,700 Leafs plus 2,600 Volts, a 1:1.8 ratio.

In the US Sales through February totaled 10,800 Leafs plus 9,600 Volts, and there are 1,275 Blink charging stations, a 16:1 ratio. EV sales and public charging station installation is surely a chicken-and-egg problem but to date EV sales far outpaced public charging. It's no wonder EV sales seem to have slowed as we move beyond early adopters.

thankyouOB
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Re: Open Letter to Ecotality / Blink Network

Sat Mar 17, 2012 9:39 am

parking lots of more than 50 cars should be required to have 2-4 EV parking slots with $1-2 and hour electricity, or some other charging rate.

yes, I know that would be complicated--state or federal or city rule?
perhaps a zoning requirement, or a requirement similar to the ADA.
may reserve/delivery 4/30/11
--
ECOtality/LADWP/ Blink 4/4/11
--
Gardena Nissan, msrp -1k
red SL with etec L3
SOLAR POWERED since 2008

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Randy
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Re: Open Letter to Ecotality / Blink Network

Sat Mar 17, 2012 9:42 am

thankyouOB wrote:parking lots of more than 50 cars should be required to have 2-4 EV parking slots with $1-2 and hour electricity, or some other charging rate.

yes, I know that would be complicated--state or federal or city rule?
perhaps a zoning requirement, or a requirement similar to the ADA.


AB2583 is underway...Check it out...

viewtopic.php?f=7&t=8227

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TonyWilliams
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Re: Open Letter to Ecotality / Blink Network

Sat Mar 17, 2012 9:44 am

You guys understand that the ratio and number of chargers is an issue; my specific issue is bought and paid for with tax money chargers that don't work, and haven't worked consistently since new.

Does anybody have a contact to the DOE, who administers the 100 million dollars for these habitually broken units?

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Randy
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Re: Open Letter to Ecotality / Blink Network

Sat Mar 17, 2012 9:59 am

Recovery.gov has some interesting info about the project, including quarterly reports that list lots of stats, including each and every major vendor transaction...Looks like $30M spent/reimbursed out of the $100M as of Q42011...

http://www.recovery.gov/Transparency/Re ... qtr=2011Q4

I have been in touch with the Blink Network folks, and have some firsthand experience with the Blink failures at our workplace. I have been able to clear them by repowering/rebooting the unit, which isn't practical in most public installations. I'm told that a new version of software is coming soon for them that will allow easier remote reboots to help clear the issues.

I know, not a longterm fix, but at least some recognition that there are issues...

thankyouOB
Posts: 3583
Joined: Mon Feb 21, 2011 11:14 am
Delivery Date: 30 Apr 2011
Leaf Number: 1442
Location: Coastal LA

Re: Open Letter to Ecotality / Blink Network

Sat Mar 17, 2012 10:09 am

TonyWilliams wrote:You guys understand that the ratio and number of chargers is an issue; my specific issue is bought and paid for with tax money chargers that don't work, and haven't worked consistently since new.

Does anybody have a contact to the DOE, who administers the 100 million dollars for these habitually broken units?



i am not getting on the bash-blink bandwagon, and efforts that will allow EV detractors and Obama haters to undermine the laudable efforts to increase the use of EVs.
Yes, I get that poor execution of the EVSE program will work against expansion of EVs. But that is not how the Gooper noise-machine works. They will take any crack and call it a chasm. They will take any shortfall and say it is crony capitalism and then build their hate-bridge to a no-EV world.

Moreover, my blink works well and, in its essential function, has never failed to charge.
the program saved me $1200 and helped to make me an EV early adopter. Now, I am providing valuable data through Ecotality.
As Randy points out above, new software perfected most/many/some of the residential blinks and, I suspect, will do so for the commercial units too. they are due to start fee-based service in a few months. I note that this week the blinks near work started asking for zipcode of the card user.

as to other units, the ones i have used in LA -- 6 different units at three different sites -- all worked well and have worked well since January when they were installed.
yes, i have seen some of these offline on a rare occasion, but my by far most common experience with the ones that I see almost daily is that they are working.
your experience is not universal.
Last edited by thankyouOB on Sat Mar 17, 2012 4:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.

klapauzius
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Re: Open Letter to Ecotality / Blink Network

Sat Mar 17, 2012 10:10 am

In addition to the poorly working public chargers, one should also add the overall
goofy design of the home-chargers with all their problems...

Up this date they did not manage to simply display on the unit, how much energy was used, despite having a full color touchscreen display at their disposal.
That of course is just a minor issue compared to the WiFi issues that, in the past, have rendered the unit inoperable at times.
Overall one has the impression that the $100 million of taxpayer money was
not awarded to the best possible candidate for the job...

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TonyWilliams
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Re: Open Letter to Ecotality / Blink Network

Sat Mar 17, 2012 10:12 am

Randy wrote:I know, not a longterm fix, but at least some recognition that there are issues...


I forgot to mention the other stated problems from my phone call: in addition to our power failure, there is too much noise in the electricity, and needs a filter. And the RFID somehow interferes with the SD memory card.

Sounds like a lot of issues. Until they get those worked out, let's get some good, solid Clipper Creek L2s at Balboa Park, and the multitude of other locations that the Blink units don't work at.

I'm hesitant to get the news involved, but I'll bet one call to Faux News will get the word out.

KeiJidosha
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Re: Open Letter to Ecotality / Blink Network

Sat Mar 17, 2012 10:13 am

Current Status;

Project Title - Transportation Electrification
Project Status - Less Than 50% Completed

More details


San Diego contractor contact;

AAA Electrical & Communications - Award Number EE0002194 - AAA Electrical & Communications
Award Number EE0002194
Sub-Award Number N/A
Vendor DUNS Number 839470622
Vendor HQ Zip Code + 4 913312220
Vendor Name AAA Electrical & Communications
Product and Service Description Construction services for residential and commercial L2 EVSE installations in the San Diego area
Payment Amount $47,087
- 2009 BMW MINI E > 2013 Honda Fit EV > 2017 Chevy Bolt EV
- 2013 Ford C-Max Energi > Tesla Model 3 (Reservation) :?:

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