The journey by electric car #1

Picture: CC BY 2.0 Håkan Dahlström
Writer: Natalia Reen

Natalia Reen works as part of the EU-funded bIoTope project, running various Internet of Things trials and pilots in Kalasatama.

This week I decided to rent an electric car in order to check the real situation with the infrastructure for electric car charging and parking.

There are some first experience that should help us to develop better services in the EU-funded bIOTope project:

– It is not possible to rent electric vehicle from anywhere else than Ekorent in Finland. I called to all big car rent providers – they don’t have electric cars for rent in Finland. Going ahead, I asked later EuropCar (they previously had 5 EVs) why don’t they have anymore EV for rent. I didn’t get clear answer, but the suggestion is that customers are not ready for that – too stressful (I fully agree) and limitations (90-100 km/hour, for example, for speed).

– Ekorent takes 10 EUR for registration, and later monthly fee if to keep subscription. The renting price is not too high. The surprise for me was that Nissan Leaf is ”connected car”, meaning that after registration I choose the car and it rented immediately – just ”open doors”. I though that should be something like reservation calendar, but not. Click on car on the map and it is yours. My first short time reservation has happened when I was 40 km away from the car. 🙂

– Car is a bit different than I used to drive, but support was good – by phone and a lot of papers and access keys in car.

– Charging: 100% charged car is not enough to drive one day in a cold whether! From Ruoholahti to Espoo and then to airport took 50%. From Northern Espoo to the Helsinki center and back – again 50%.

– When the indicator shows that I used 50% I started to understand what does it mean ”stressful to drive”.

– There are more than 10 charging places from EKORENT in Helsinki, but it does not help – they are dedicated for other Ekorent cars. And I did not find any way to find out are they occupied or not. My place was in Ruoholahti, from Nothern Espoo it is definitely not an option to drive for charging.

– Though I thought that I know all about charging services in Finland – it did not help me to charge:-) I had to look in google for charging services. There is a charging info service on the car dashboard, which is useful but not a perfect one – I will describe it later on.

– The easiest and the most understandable service is plugshare.com. It shows different types (private, public, slow, fast, in-use) of charging poles. It tells what kind of access is required. For example, for Virta. it says – only virta customers with special cards. This appears to be the most important information for the driver.

It is not necessary to show all possible charging station in the area, but rather those that this concrete car and user can use!

– I tried first fast charging. Maps shows that in my area there are several publicly available and free of charge fast charging. They all happened to be in car selling and renting places.

– EuropCar pole did not work and they did not know about that since they withdrew all electric vehicles. They promised to fix pole and gave me a card – we can ask more why they don’t use EV for renting.

– Volkswagen pole was also marked as public and free of charge. But it was not true. Only fast charging socket was forever occupied by their test-drive car, not available for others. Other sockets did not fit to my car. Man from the service center has told me that there are at least 2 different standards for European and asian cars. Nissan (I used) could not be charged in Volkswagen slow charging (European plug).

We have to figure out what is it and why. I understand that Tesla is out of questions, but why Asian and European plugs are different, I don’t understand.

– Finally I got fast charging at Nissan Car shop next to Jumbo. It was also free of charge. I asked the car seller how much Nissan Leaf (EV) costs, he said that he does not know because nobody buys:-) But they have this car for test drive.

– Over the night I have charged car from my home plug – there is a special cable available in the car that allows to plug into the ”ordinary schuko” plug.

The first conclusion – despite of Virta, Fortum and other service providers’ effort and claims – we have neither good service nor infrastructure for people to use safely EV even in Helsinki region.

…..to be continued.

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