Thursday, August 5, 2010

Review: The OMSI eBike Charging Station

View of OMSI from the new charging station.
As first reported over at BikePortland.org, OMSI, in cooperation with PGE, Sanyo, and InSpec Design, has installed an electric vehicle charging station, partially powered by solar power collected on-site. This is in addition to an existing 2-spot electric vehicle charging station immediately north of the Museum.

Weather-resistant outlet mounted to bike rack.
Located in the parking directly east of OMSI, the kiosk is easy to find.  There are 2 choices to lock and charge your ebike: there are covered (but not enclosed) standard bike racks, with weather-resistant 110v AC outlets located with 8-12 inches of the lock ring.  If you've brought your charger with you, it's a straightforward process to plug-in and recharge.

Secure off-bike charging.
The other alternative is a fully enclosed locker.  These closely resemble the lockers at airports or bus stations, but for one addition - 2 110v AC outlets inside the locker. These lockers are rented for 50 cents; when I inquired, OMSI indicated they hadn't established a time limit yet. There are 6 lockers - the top lockers in each group is signed as including a Sanyo charger, but currently they only have outlets.  Including the charger is an interesting idea - it's obviously a sales point for Sanyo, as if you've purchased one of their bikes you won't need to carry your charger with you.  The ticket sellers just inside the museum are happy to make change.  The lockers are approximately 12 inches square, so if you have a particularly large or oddly shaped battery, you may want to verify it will fit before committing yourself to using them.

Another potential ebike charging station.
An interesting opportunity exists in the parking lot directly north of the museum, at the previously installed LEV charging station. As the picture shows, there is a bike rack near these outlets, but trailing wires across a busy sidewalk isn't really viable. The addition of 2 staples in closer proximity to the outlets would help maximize the use of these outlets as well.

Upon hearing about the station, I was curious as to how well it would work in practice. Shortly thereafter, I found myself needing to make several stops downtown, and knew that the full round-trip distance was at the limit of my battery range. Unfortunately, I wasn't going to be at a single stop long enough to significantly recharge.  So I opted to ride in on battery power, drop the charger and battery in a locker, and continue my errands - under solely my own power, and a little over 10 pounds lighter. Business concluded, I returned to the kiosk to a full charge, and an easy ride home. I will admit, though, I was initially disappointed at having to pay for parking (isn't that one of the advantages of a bike?), but the added security of the locker, I found, was well worth it.

So barring errands, what are some other usage models?  In addition to my above trip, I could easily see this kiosk displacing driving downtown to see a show, for example, and a boon for waterfront festival-goers. Sure, you'd still have to walk or pedal a bit, but it will be lots easier than driving and parking.  In fact, I've used it twice this week already, but in that time I haven't seen anyone else using it.

3 comments:

  1. i want these installed in the Smart Parks. -then- they'll be convenient! :)

    how would you keep your charger from being stolen if you didn't use a locker?

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  3. The addition of 2 staples in closer proximity to the outlets would help maximize the use of these outlets as well.
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