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Got an outlet? An iPhone app connects electric car owners with plugs

March 7, 2011 |  3:00 am

PlugShareElectrical outlets are everywhere. Finding and accessing them to recharge electric vehicles, however, is another issue.

While the U.S. government has invested $115 million to build 15,000 public chargers across the country, they are only starting to be installed. Even then, there could be a shortage of available public plugs for EV drivers, the ranks of whom are expected to swell to 1 million by 2015.

Stepping in with a solution is a new  free iPhone app, PlugShare. Available for download starting today, the app is designed to connect EV owners with available plugs, both public and private.

Individuals who have 110- and 220-volt chargers and are willing to offer them to EV drivers in need of a charge can sign up to add their address to the network. EV owners can then contact the owner of the outlet to power up.

The app uses three different icons, which show whether an outlet is 110-volt, 220-volt with a J1772 plug or a J1772 public charging station. Unlike apps developed by makers of individual EV chargers -- such as ChargePoint America, which shows only Coulomb chargers -- PlugShare shows all public chargers from all manufacturers, as well as those offered by individuals.

"A lot of the early adopters we talked to said the government infrastructure for charging EVs isn't there yet, but a lot of people are getting charging docks installed at their houses and asking, 'Why shouldn't I be able to share my charger?'" said Armen Petrosian, co-developer of the app with Forrest North.

PlugShare is the first iPhone app from their Palo Alto-based EV software firm, Xatori.

"Our goal is to create products that lead to democratization of the grid," North said. He said his company's future apps may incorporate strategies for carbon offsets and lowering pollution.


BP, Arco, Best Buy to install fast chargers for electric vehicles

Getting charged up: Powering the electric fleet

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Map of PlugShare participants showing available EV charging stations. Credit: PlugShare