What would happen if you drove to National Plug In Day in your EV, stopped at a Walgreens afterwards to charge, then found out you couldn't unplug the J1772 coupler? Not a good way to end the day.

According to one Think City owner, who posts by the user name "brkannd" on a Yahoo Group for fellow EV owners (called "think_ev"), he drove 65 miles to Philadelphia for the second annual Plug In Day and used the SemaCharge network to find this particular charging station. After being unable to disconnect, he asked for help in the store, but of course they knew nothing about the charger. He was given an 800-telephone number for SemaCharge, where he left a message with their answering service, and was told he wouldn't be called back until the next day. The SemaCharge website, on the other hand, proudly reads "Call us! We're here, 24/7/365!" We've asked SemaCharge for a comment, but have not received a response. See below.

He ended up calling his contact at EuroStar, where he'd originally purchased his Think, who handed his phone to a colleague named Lanny. Lanny had had experience with this type of problem before and his solution was to "man-handle it," putting extreme upward vertical pressure on the nozzle, breaking it free. Brkannd then jimmied with his charge coupler until the car was released. He did receive a callback from SemaCharge four hours later, and they said a technician would be sent out to look at it, adding that they are looking at making some changes to their nozzle in order to improve them.

Lanny posted some photos on the Yahoo group showing the problem – that the latch didn't open as far as the connector on the adjacent station when compared side by side. He also wondered if there's a problem with inconsistency, such as the threshold on the J1772 receptacle in the Think being higher than other EVs, creating a bent connector latch. Reader Jim M., who sent in this tip, let us know that other Think City and BMW ActiveE owners have had problems in the Washington/Baltimore area disconnecting chargers as well.

Chelsea Sexton, best known for her role in "Who Killed the Electric Car?", recently wrote a column for Wired expressing concerns over inconsistencies in charging station technologies. She said she thinks Tesla Motors' new Supercharger is admirable to an extent, but doesn't appreciate the proprietary functionality for Model S owners only. Sexton wants to see automakers come out of hiding and commit to building and marketing all kinds of EVs. Then, she says, the infrastructure will follow. When it does, we need it to be reliable, and stories like this one show that just having the chargers isn't enough. They need to work as advertised, too.

*UPDATE: Naly Yang, marketing communications manager for SemaConnect, told AutoblogGreen that the problem is with the J1772 connector that SemaCharge bought from a supplier she did not want to name. "We are currently working with the supplier to find out what the issue is," she said, adding that, "We have over 500 stations nationwide, and less than one percent have this issue." If the problem can't be solved, SemeCharge might change manufacturers. She said that she personally has seen other vehicles charge at the station in question without problem, and wonders if the issue might be with the Think City. Other EV charging companies use the same supplier, but widespread reports of this problem do not exist.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 15 Comments
      bluepongo1
      • 2 Years Ago
      Gosh I guess this is why Tesla used all new in-house tech instead of using outside vendors obsolete junk.
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 2 Years Ago
        @bluepongo1
        Could actually be 1mm of tolerance off in the charger plug. That doesn't make it dated, just very slightly poorly designed. No need for a proprietary system just for that reason.
          bluepongo1
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          Going with the cheap bid for high voltage is called natural selection. Not proprietary, just better standards. Other companies will have to adopt and stop trying to pander to Mc Donald's/ Wal-Mart types who want price over quality.
      • 2 Years Ago
      What happens when you can't unplug your plug in? Fear, dismay, panic and thoughts of desperate measures. I can tell you this from personal experience because I'm one of the people that it has happened to. The J-1772 connector on the charging station second from the left in the parking garage beneath Mason Hall at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore got stuck on my car. After a number of firm attempts to free it and realizing that there was a possibility that I may break my car getting it off, I pulled on the connector with great upward and outward force and it finally released. Apply great upward force with both hands is the advice that I gave to brkandd when the same thing happened to him in Philadelphia on Plug In Day. We've since read reports that the same thing has happened with a BMW Active E and with one or two cars at a Walgreens in Decatur, Georgia. http://carstations.com/16095 After hearing of the other incidents, I began sampling the gap size of the latch on J-1772 connectors on various public charging stations in my area. So far I've measured 15 normally operating connector latches with a pair of digital calipers. The measurements of the gap with the latch held in the open position range between .328 and .347 of an inch. I returned to Johns Hopkins University to measure the connector that got stuck on my car. The gap on that connector was .227 inches fully open. That is .101 of an inch shorter than the smallest gap of the other 15 latches that I sampled. It was clearly out of the norm. A latch that opens a tenth of an inch less than normal seems likely to cause problems no matter what the car. Now, before I plug in at any public charging station, I always closely examine the latch opening and press the thumb button down to make sure that it opens wide. I suggest that all EV drivers do the same. I'd much rather be ICEd than Hotel Californiaed, "you can charge here any time you like but you can never leave." Lanny
      Spec
      • 2 Years Ago
      The phenomenon has been dubbed being "Hotel Californiaed" . . . you can check in, but you can never leave. It may be cause by people dropping the J1772 charger handle and thus bending the latch trigger. Just a little bit of a bend and then the clearance of the trigger is reduced such that you can't get the charge handle out.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I saw the photos of the connectors on the Yahoo! Group. It's a Yazaki made J1772 plug. The "trigger" in question is a single piece die cast part that pivots around a fulcrum. The suspect plug was probably a brand new unit that needed to be "broken in" by multiple cycling of the trigger mechanism. I didn't see any noticeable defect based on the side by side photo. FYI, this was NOT what Chelsea was referring to in her article regarding differing connector standards.
      Smoking_dude
      • 2 Years Ago
      Anyone tried a brand new USB 3 plug? Out of the box and plugged in the fist time they are very snug. we are doooooomed ;)
        EZEE
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Smoking_dude
        Doomed! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmZRDUO1wGQ&sns=em
        Letstakeawalk
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Smoking_dude
        Doomed! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjNBzyLqDPM
      EZEE
      • 2 Years Ago
      Condensed version of story: Man cannot pull plug out. Other man says, 'pull really hard.' Advice works. Of course, many of us are here because someone couldn't pull out.... :D
      Marco Polo
      • 2 Years Ago
      Y' know, one in the not to distant future, stories like this wouldn't even rate a mention since EV's will be so common place ! Sigh, sadly I am old enough to remember when owning a cell phone made you the butt of envy, smart-arse remarks, and endless debates in the newspapers (no internet in those prehistoric times) as to the correct etiquette of mobile phone use ! The charging technology, along with the ESD, will develop very rapidly. Personally, (and it's only a personal preference) I think wireless inductive charging will prove more popular, as the numbers of EV grow. Like manual shift transmissions, plug-in post will remain an option for die-hard, purists. But the rest of us will opt for the comfort and convenience of inductive charging. I like Chelsea, but she does tend to look at things through the prism of ideology. In the end I hope the market decides on a format, bat at this stage any mandatory standardization would be counter-productive.
      Jim McL
      • 2 Years Ago
      someone said that the problem stations have been removed
      Jim McL
      • 2 Years Ago
      I thought it was vandalism
        Spec
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Jim McL
        The pump don't work 'Cause the vandals took the handles.
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