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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Blink can't spell FREE

I received an EZ Charge card as part of the Nissan Leaf 2011/12 battery class action lawsuit. I was excited to use it. The idea of a single card that works on multiple networks is much better than the jungle of charging cards I usually carry. And it was free to use for 90 days! I registered on my local networks and was ready to charge!

I drove out to Gresham yesterday. Stopped at a Blink DC Fast Charge (DCFC) station on the way home. There was a Leaf there already and they were just starting a charging session. The Blink DCFC stations have two cords, but only one is operational at a time. I was not in a hurry.

I pulled into the open spot. I grabbed the EZ Charge card and scanned it to start the session. There was a note that this would be a 30 minutes free charging session. I had never seen this 30 minute limitation before. I learned later that it is a restriction on the EZ Charge program, but not on normal Blink members. 30 minutes should be enough so I plugged in. It said, "The other side is in use. Your next." I retreated to my car and occupied myself on my phone while I waited.

About a half hour later, the other car finished and unplugged. I expected my side to start charging. It did not. I went out and looked at the station. I had been logged out. My "30 minutes" had expired! That's right, the session never started, but the time had expired. There are only two primary usecases, (immediate charging and delayed charging) and they didn't even bother to consider them both. If I would have left and then come back an hour later expecting to find a charged car, I would have been disappointed.

So I scanned the card again and it started charging. After 30 minutes the charge stopped. I had enough to make it home, but before I left, I wanted to try the Level 2 Blink station there too, just to see if the EZ Charge card worked. I scanned it, logged in and it said that I would be charged "normal membership rates of $0.39 per kWh." What? It should be free. Did I miss some fine-print. Is it only for the DCFCs on the Blink network? I let it charge for a minutes and the kWhs and pennies were ticking by. I was being charged a fee on my "free card". I stopped the session.

Because of the fee, I logged on to my Blink account and checked my account history. Both the DCFC session and the Level 2 session were there and neither were completely free.

The DCFC session had a $0.25 junk fee on it. Twenty-five cents is not much, but this is part of a lawsuit settlement. The agreement is "Free for 90 days".  I went to Blink's website and found the agreement. Here is the relevant section:

The programs is even called "No Charge to Charge", not "No Charge, but only on fast chargers and some junk fees might apply and you are limited to 30 minutes and must wait 60 minutes between charges-To Charge".

So there you have it. The Level 2 stations are not part of the program. In my region, the Level 2 Blink stations outnumber the DCFC stations by ~10 to 1. Eliminating the Level 2 stations, means most Blink stations are not in the program.

In my experience, reliability of Blink's network has been an ongoing problem, and again they have found another way to disappoint me.

I used this same card on the AeroVironment network and I was not charged junk fees.

Charging can be a fun, hassle-free experience. With Blink, for me, that is too often not the case. I wish they would replace them all with something more reliable and better managed.

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