So charging stations don't work?

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New member
Oct 12, 2023
As per my other post, I've inherited my grandfather's 2018 BEV i3 and plan to drive it from Phoenix to LA.

I thought I'd drive around testing charge stations today to see how they actually work. Using a combination of google maps, Abrp, chargehub, and the iDrive map, I would randomly drive to a station and see if it would work. This was around Scottsdale, Arizona.

I went 1 for 9.

1. Volta station - didn't charge (I guess), the color was white. Zero helpfulness on the station display, was just ads with the plug lying on the ground.
2. Next station a EVgo - had an out of service sign.
3. Then tried a tesla station to see if we can use those (I've heard mixed things) nope, different fitting plug.
4. The next one was in a private business's parking lot I couldn't enter.
5. Next was a Blink station, it wouldn't accept my credit card.
6. Next was the Blink station right next to the above one and it did work. This was only one that worked.
7. Next tried an Infinite dealership. They were out of order.
8. Next tried a Chevy dealership. Couldn't find the stations.
9. Then tried a Toyota dealership, they seemed to be working but rejected my credit card. A salesman/attendant came over and wasn't sure why it wasn't working but guessed it was only for their cars and not open for public.

This was in one of the wealthiest neighbors in North America. Doesn't' bode well for middle of the desert.

I've read advice to call every station you plan on hitting on a trip and double check they're open/work. Based on my experience I'd say this is not nice advice but critical.
That was a very good idea on your part.

Just an FYI regarding Tesla "Stations", if they are the White/Red SuperCharrger stations they absolutely will not work unless they have been outfitted with what is called a "Magic Dock", which is Tesla's own adapter from their Plug style to the one that your car uses.

They are slowly retrofitting these but they are not common. The other issue is that you must use the Tesla app to access them even with the Magic Dock. When a Tesla plugs in, it communicates with the Tesla servers and it is ID'd as a Tesla and is allowed to charge. If anyone made an "adapter" to try to charge, it would not work because the Tesla Servers would not recognize your car and then not allow it to charge.

If you go to put in your location and de-select all options EXCEPT "Supercharrgers open to Non-Tesla" you will see there is very little availability in the USA.
Sadly this is the state of EV charging in the public, good on you for going around and giving them a try tho!

I suggest you also add PlugShare to your list of charging apps... its the biggest crowd-sourced app and very handy for planning a trip ahead of time.
This is what happens when you have crappy, ultra greedy companies like EVGo, etc...all "creating" their own networks and sites. None of them want to collaborate, share, or work together to develop a decent charging infrastructure.

I work in the'd be surprised how nasty the companies and people in this industry are and how selfish they are when it comes to hoarding. I get the competition but in this case, it's destroying the final goal. Greed, control, and power are the cancer of growth.
I’ll echo what others have said, and agree that it’s always wise to have one or two backup plans for charging. The worst case scenario is slightly better than running out of gas, but only if you are somewhere you can plug into 120v and hope for 4miles/hr recharge rate. In the middle of the desert that won’t work.

My additional pieces of advice I haven't seen mentioned:
1) For CCS (fast charging), sometimes it helps to hold the plug in place until the charge starts. The cables are heavy and the torque of that weight can sometimes cause problems with the connection. Putting slight upwards pressure from the cable end can help with that.

2) Highly recommend plugshare for scoping backup plans. Try to familiarize yourself with the filters too. Normally, for finding a charger you will have to rely on, I’d recommend using the “hide dealerships” filter, filtering to a high plugshare score (6+) and then looking at the recent check-ins as well.

3) Air resistance is proportion to the square of speed, so pay attention to your speed on the trip. The temptation to go a little faster than ABRP has planned will have a big impact on range! Especially if your other car is an M3 you might have to adjust your thinking. :cool: 70mph has nearly twice the air resistance as 50mph, so if your range is dropping too fast on a leg, slow down.

Unfortunately, as you've found, doing all the planning is still no guarantee a charger will work when you get there and it looks like your trip from Phoenix to LA is going to have some stretches without realistic backup options so make sure you plan accordingly just in case of a failure at a critical charger (food, water, etc).

If you have the time, it might not be a bad idea to do a test run in the safety of a known environment to run the car down to 1-5% or something just so you know how it feels when the GOM is in the single digits. This would also confirm there are no battery issues that would appear at a very low state of charge.

If you go through with the road-trip, good luck! That’s definitely not the i3’s strong suit, so it’ll definitely be memorable.
Adding on here the recommendation for PlugShare:

Public EVSEs ("chargers") are often in odd locations, especially if they're in a parking structure. Within two miles from me EVgo has Level 3 charging (high-speed DC fast charging) on level three of one parking structure and in the basement of another!

A charging location's listing on PlugShare will usually have detailed instructions as to where to find each EVSE in a location ("In the back, behind Carl's Jr.", "On level five of the parking structure, north of the elevators", etc.).

For some time now they have had live updating of EVSE availability.
Thanks everyone for the replies.
Here's an update... I called a BMW service center in Scottsdale and they advised it was way too risky to try the trip (there's one stretch of 98 miles between chargers) and to ship it. I called another service center for a second opinion and they advised the same.

So I flew back to LA and shipped it. Cost $450. Having to direct a truck driver and his 50ft trailer through a narrow West Hollywood parking lot was an adventure on its own. At one point two attractive young ladies (25ish) and their tiny dogs dressed in bedazzled doggy sweaters approached me (40 something guy) as I was air traffic controlling the truck driver. BTW This is just off Sunset blvd, beside the Hollywood Hills. Ferraris, Astons Martins etc everywhere. They come up to me and with batting eyes ask "is that your car in there?" It was a closed box trailer, their imaginations must have been running wild.
I say, "Why, yes it is."
"What kind of car is it?"
"My grandfather's BMW i3."
They politely smiled and walked away.

The truck driver and I had a good chuckle about it.
Beachy said:
"What kind of car is it?"

It's a limited production, rear-wheel drive, mid-engine, carbon fiber vehicle from BMW that is so performance oriented, no existing tire was good enough so BMW had to have Bridgestone make a tire specifically for it! :lol:

Honestly, I'm a bit bummed you didn't road-trip it back (I was like 80% sure you would've made it) but the $450 seems very well spent (because, well... that 20% chance you didn't).

Which brings us back to the title of this thread: if every single charger were 100% reliable, it'd be a lot easier to try something like a cross-desert trip in a city car. The past few years seem to indicate reliability is going in the wrong direction but backups should be coming online soon with the IRA investments starting to bear fruit and Telsa opening up the supercharger network, so we'll see what happens in the next few years.

Either way, thanks for the update and hope you enjoy the i3 in LA. That seems like exactly the sort of place it will shine!
Another possibility for the next person or the next time you need to go 98 miles:
Things to bring...
  • A level 1 charger and an extension cable and/or
  • A level 2 charger and extension cable
  • A generator capable of outputting 110v (for charging at level 1) and/or
  • A generator capable of outputting 220v (for charging at level 2)

  • Gas station (for the generator)
  • Rest stop (to plug in)
  • RV park (to plug in)
  • Restaurant/Hotel (to plug in)
  • Government owned public facility (rest stop/park visitor center/city building, etc.) with courtesy outlets

Charging at level 2, you can get between 50 and 75% charge in a couple of hours. An RV/truck/rest stop makes the most sense for this. No guarantee but this is the lucky play IMO. The sure bet is of course bringing a level 1 charger and a generator so you can charge on your own if necessary, since a plain generator would also let you charge at 110v and do the same in about 8 hours. 25% in 4 hours. The only challenge is how to transport a generator without smelling gas. But a bike/luggage rack could allow this on the top/back of the i3. If there are safety concerns, transport it dry, and then gas it up and charge at a gas station. Perhaps a big gas station with a place you can sit down and have a meal, etc. so the time is somewhat well spent. If I had to take a flight it's already well spent considering airport security, etc.

A gas station or restaurant might allow you to charge at 110. An RV stop would likely have a 220v outlet which you could plug a level 2 charger into. So I wonder whether rest stops were an option along the way.

Those are my thoughts. I cannot imagine there isn't proper infrastructure supporting people on an RV trip on the same route, so while it would have cost you some time I think the most practical answer here was to find a 220v outlet at an RV park, etc., and charge at level 2.

More than likely this was an easy trip and one that could have been completed without the charging network. Personally I charge at home and at work and I think the charging network is a waste of money and only paid to charge as a novelty when I first bought my car. to be fair, I drive a Rex and have completed one round trip nearly 300 miles away and I had to stop every 40 minutes to fill up after about the first hour ... it wasn't enjoyable and I'll never do it again as it added about an hour to the trip.

Saying all the above, I would have just charged up the car, preconditioned it, and driven it 98 miles in eco pro mode as slow as possible, lol, because you would have made it, and if you didn't you might have needed to charge around 20 miles from your destination ... I wonder how easy or hard it is to find charging options at that point.
3pete said:
Either way, thanks for the update and hope you enjoy the i3 in LA. That seems like exactly the sort of place it will shine!

The i3 began its life as the Megacity Concept Vehicle (MCV).

Los Angeles is one of the cities for which the i3 was intended to work and it's a perfect place to drive an i3.

From the Autoblog article:
Precursors: Researching the Megacities

Before starting to think about the Megacity vehicle itself, BMW tried to figure out what kind of vehicle people in cities would even want. To do this, BMW conducted interviews and did market research in megacities, that is, urban areas with more than six million people, around the world – places like Los Angeles, Tokyo, London, Paris, Barcelona, New York and the Ruhr Valley area in Germany. Some of those megacities, LA and the Ruhr Valley, have an affinity for private vehicles. In Mexico City, people said they liked their personal vehicles because they offered a place of safety. In other megacities, though, people are fairly car averse, in part due to excellent public transportation. Tokyo, for example, has a large population of young people (18-22) who don't even have a driver's license; Shanghai has excellent integration of private and public transportation with a focus on sustainable options. How do you build a car for all these people? You get to know them.

BMW's in-house research identified three broad customer types who live in megacities: those who are driven by responsibility, economy and lifestyle. Any individual person can be placed somewhere in a Venn diagram made from these categories, but BMW believes these are the three main customers the MCV could appeal to. On top of these types, BMW identified some "mega-trends" among people living in megacities (it was at this point we realized we were glad BMW didn't call Project I the Mega Project): they are searching for new solutions for mobility, they perceive the impacts of climate change, the political realities are changing and that everything needs to be more efficient. At the end of the process, the Project I team realized, they didn't just want an electric car but a new way of doing things.