On PlugShare, some public chargers are actually in private homes

From the September 2022 issue of car and driver.

One notable entry described itself as “The Watt Family Poodle Farm and Insane Asylum.” Watt’s place stands out (yes, really) on the PlugShare list, one of several unexpected private lodgings between the app’s website and status reviews of public EV chargers. To find out who invites complete strangers into their garage and why, photographer Michael Cimari and I picked up the master switch of an electric car we thought wouldn’t be unwelcome in any driveway, the BMW i4 M50, and plotted a path along the way. West Coast Michigan, marking our stop based on PlugShare’s Little Blue House Icons.

Our first destination was a group of tiny homes a few miles offshore in South Haven, where, with no answers to our in-app texts, we parked in front of a charged Chrysler Pacifica and asked a woman sitting nearby. The yard if we could borrow some fees. “I’m sorry, what?” She said, looking confused. “Can we connect to your charging station? You are listed on the PlugShare map.” Her eyes widened and she started laughing. “Oh my gosh, yeah, of course. I’m sorry, I forgot we were there. Nobody ever uses it.”

Michael Cimaricar and driver

As BMW slowly collected electrons, we asked aptly named Heather Weir (yes, really) why she and her husband provide power from their vacation home to any road passerby. “When we installed the charger a few years ago, there wasn’t much of a generic charger, and we wanted to support the technology and push green energy. It’s not that much electricity; it’s not a big deal to share.”

Our next stop was in Holland (Michigan), home of two menus. The first title was down a trail so long and winding that it cost us another mile of range. Ended up in a great house with no sign of where to plug it in and every sign of a place where you get arrested for trespassing. Simari suggested: “Knock on the door.” I replied, “Go touch.” Neither of us did. If you live in a nice house in the Netherlands and are wondering about two minutes of Ring cam footage of two people arguing in a BMW, sorry, it was us.

Michael Cimaricar and driver

A few blocks away there was a nice yellow duplex apartment, again with no visible charging station and no sign that anyone was home. We hesitated about road etiquette for so long that a neighbor came out and asked if we needed help, on “Do I need to call the police about you?” road type. We explained that we were sent by a shipping network app, and he smiled indulgently and suggested a nearby grocery store.

We tried again, in a more rugged neighborhood near Muskegon, one with bands of wild turkeys bobbing around overgrown lawns. The title had a Chevy Bolt in the lane but no apparent cargo capacity. Feeling guilty about yelling at the last two, I knocked on a white door peeled with a broken pane of glass. No answer, and I was happy.

We gave up and used some of our remaining 40 miles to get to a public ChargePoint unit. Both sockets were in use – one by Volkswagen ID.4 and the other by Polestar. The Polestar driver showed up a few minutes later, and demanded the hatch open before the Hyundai Kona Electric and Ford Mustang Mach-E joined the parking party. The Kona driver checked the charge on the Volkswagen (100 percent) and shouted about the owner’s rudeness. The Kona owners were on vacation and had been on the road for a month. They said that while charging wasn’t a big deal at all, there were occasional annoyances like the reckless VW owner. Despite this, they felt the hurdles to electric vehicle ownership were worthwhile, reiterating an idea expressed by Heather Weir that electric car owners experience something new, an idea still in its infancy.

Michael Cimaricar and driver

The next morning I received several messages. Some apologized to people with vacation homes who were not there on weekdays. It was several people who said they no longer had EV or moved and didn’t remember they were on the app. Show two electricity.

The first was down a gravel road that ran on the peninsula of Lake Arcadia. I battled spiders on the charging cord while Simari enjoyed the view. Later I spoke to owner Paul Warnick. Like Wires, Warnicke is an early adopter of electrified vehicles, buying first the Volt and then the Bolt. His common plug makes sense, as he’s out in a remote area, and he says he gets three to five users a year, usually guests from his neighbours. “Part of it is just encouraging others to think about it. I feel lucky that I can do it. It’s such a small thing, and it’s a way to give back.”

Michael Cimaricar and driver

We had the pleasure of staying at Warnick’s house for the eight hours it would have taken to recharge, but we had another stop, Tim Drager’s house, in a neighborhood built around a private airstrip. The Draegers bought a Bolt on the recommendation of a friend who used to work with General Motors. They like the low maintenance of the electric vehicle and feel it makes up for doing a lot of their flying. “I burn a lot of fossil fuels,” Dräger said. “That sounds like a tiny bit of carbon.” He added what has now become a common refrain: “I love meeting people in the electric car community. The grid isn’t here yet, but it’s growing. We’re pioneers.” Like pioneers in friendly outposts along the Oregon Trail, people like Draeger, Wires, and Warnicke make some emergency rations out in the wild.

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