Electric vehicle drivers are tapping into shared resources to alleviate range anxiety.
While public charging stations have been increasing, EV drivers sometimes have to find readily accessible alternatives – including charging at someone’s house, hotels, or campgrounds. Utilities, municipalities, workplaces and startups have all ramped up their investment in the infrastructure to calm fears.
Private individuals are participating in shared networks to make sure EV drivers can make it home. The charging network has earned the nickname “Airbnb of charging,” comparing it to the Airbnb network of homeowners offering affordable rental rooms to travelers.
The U.S. now has 13,925 public electric charging stations, or 34,378 outlets, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center. PlugShare, a mobile app, maps out tens of thousands of additional outlets from private residents, according to the company.
PlugShare helps EV drivers find charging, mostly for free, in places outside the more obvious charging stations. Other EV owners offer their personal charging stations near bustling highways or in places as remote as a desert road hours from Las Vegas.
Recently, Renault Group launched Elbnb, a website and application in Sweden that maps out charging stations for EVs. The homeowners who have signed up to share their own plugs have increased the number of charging stations available in the country by 3.5 percent in two weeks, said Karin Karlsson, a spokeswoman for Renault Sweden.
Airbnb has partnered with Tesla Motors to offer dozens of free charging stations to top hosts, who hope to attract EV drivers as customers.
The hodgepodge of private charging stations has led to a few challenges. One of them has been finding an accessible charging station – such as the popular Nissan Leaf looking for a CHAdeMO fast charging station. Another EV driver might be looking for a Level 2 or fast charger, but can only find network members with Level 1 slow chargers in their garages.
For Ashley Horvat, PlugShare’s vice president for strategic initiatives, the private individuals offering up their home charging stations for public use highlight what’s wrong with current EV charging infrastructure: It’s scattered, Horvat says and can lead to searching for public charging stations.
“When you’re stuck somewhere and you see that there’s someone who has a charger, that’s a great opportunity,” Horvat says. “But it’s not going to be a replacement for public charging.”