A local e-bike rider has found a way to juice-up at EV charging stations built for cars

Posted by on March 16th, 2022 at 9:10 am

Shawne Martinez purchased a $170 adapter that allows him to charge at stations like this one at Bridgeport Village. (Photo: Shawne Martinez)

If you aren’t following the electric cargo bike adventures of Tigard resident and ubiquitous Portland rider Shawne Martinez yet, you are missing out. Shawne logs serious miles and is always pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with an e-bike as he regularly pedals from his home on the Portland-Tigard border to destinations citywide.

On Tuesday he shared a short video on Twitter that showed his bike hooked-up to a Volta charging station at Bridgeport Village shopping center in Tigard. This is notable because this charging station, like many of the other snazzy ones being installed throughout the state, was only meant to charge cars.

Shawne reached out to us to share how he did it…

It’s been two years and 10,000 miles since we purchased our e-bike. I’ve had some level of range anxiety the whole time, although it’s been much less since investing in a second battery. Even during the cold winter months we can enjoy a 35 mile day that includes 2,200′ of elevation gain traveling through the southwest Portland hills. This includes hauling a 6 year old, their bike and all their stuff in our electric bucket bike. On these longer trips I still carry my charger and stop at a few spots that have reliable public power outlets to get a few extra miles of free power.

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(Photos: Shawne Martinez)

One of our usual stops is the solar charging station at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). This solar array provides four bike racks that have built-in 110VAC outlets as well as two EV chargers. A few weeks ago we stopped at OMSI (we are members) to grab lunch at their deli/snack bar. We took our sandwiches outside to the solar charger and plugged in. To my surprise, the outlets were dead! A couple of people were standing nearby and explained that the outlets weren’t working, possibly due to the cloudy day.

Charging station at OMSI only has standard outlets for bikes. But unlike the facilities provided for cars, there’s no charging cord and the outlets don’t always work.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

I noticed they both had electric unicycles (EUC) with them. “Can I look at your charger?” one of them asked. They flipped it over to read the label. “That will work. You want to plug in?” I looked down and traced the wires coming from their EUCs. They were plugged in to the electric car charger! They had a special adapter (photos above) to use the J1772 car charger plug that allowed use of our stock charging brick. And it could charge three devices at once!

We plugged in our e-bike and chatted with these two EUC riders while we ate lunch. We learned all about a EUC shop in Vancouver, WA (REV Rides) and talked about the difficulty finding public power outlets in Portland. I shared some tips about power outlets in Washington County, including the Tigard and Beaverton libraries. We unplugged after gaining 7 miles of range and I thanked them for the help. Before we parted ways, they shared the source of their awesome EV charger adapter which they purchased from a site called Alien Rides for $170. (If you decide to buy one of these adapters, be sure that your charging brick can handle both 110 and 220VAC as shown on the label.)

It was so awesome to talk to these people on EUCs and share e-micromobility knowledge. Check out Kelly Chameleons on Instagram for EUC inspiration! This may be my next e-micromobility purchase!

Thanks for sharing this with us Shawne!

Given the transformative potential of e-bikes, people should not have to figure out expensive, DIY solutions like this — especially when people who drive e-cars can do it free and easy. To me, this illustrates a massive blind spot in the EV industrial complex where most policymakers are so enamored with cars they cannot envision a future where the EV landscape is dominated by bikes and other — much smaller and much smarter! — types of vehicles like EUCs, e-boards, scooters, and more.

We saw this play out last year when the Oregon Department of Transportation embarked on a “Transportation Electrification Infrastructure and Needs Assessment” project that completely marginalized e-bikes. (Thankfully ODOT has heard this criticism and is now looking to learn more about e-bike charging needs.)

As Oregon decides how to spend federal EV infrastructure dollars, organizations like ODOT and statewide EV nonprofit Forth must connect with people like Shawne to better understand how to make charging stations accessible to as many types of EV users as possible.

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

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Steve Hash
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Steve Hash

That’s amazing! Thanks for the info!

Steve C
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Steve C

Any idea what size Shimano battery Shawne is using to get 35 miles/charge with the cargo bike? 418 Wh, 504 Wh or something larger?

It looks like Shimano is offering STEPS batteries with 630 Wh now, though at nearly double the price:
https://bike.shimano.com/en-EU/product/component/mtb-ebike-e8000/BT-E8016.html

With the way battery pricing per Wh is dropping and energy density is going up, hopefully in a few years we’ll see 1kWh ebike batteries for the price of the current 418 Wh ones. At 15 Wh/mile that would be nearly 70 miles on a charge.

DalePalmer
Subscriber
DalePalmer

I think it’s pretty close, I don’t have the money for it, but have dreamt of throwing this into an e-cargo bike.

https://www.renogy.com/48v-50ah-smart-lithium-iron-phosphate-battery/

The voltage is a little different (steps is 36v) however this would give 2400wh at 48v, ~150 miles !!!

Steve C
Guest
Steve C

Interesting. But if I’m reading this right that battery is over 60 lb! The 418Wh E6010 is claimed to be under 6 lb. At 60 lb, that’s 25% of the load capacity of a Bullitt e-cargo bike (assuming a ~160 lb rider and a total capacity of 400 lb). And it’s well over the total weight for my non-cargo ebike.

Mark
Guest
Mark

If you use higher energy density cells you could probably drop the weight down. My 72v 56ah battery pack only weighs around 40-50lb iirc, and I built it out of LG MJ1 cells in a 20s16p setup. Roughly 10lb per kilowatt hour

DC
Subscriber

Love it! Thanks for sharing Shawne and Jonathan!!

DC
Subscriber

A bit cheaper here:

DC
Subscriber
EP
Guest
EP

I’m assuming the lack of standard NEMA 5-15 outlets is due to a fear of people other than car owners using the charging stations. So you need the specialized equipment (usually found on an EV) to use the system. Concerns could be varied, but in Portland I’m sure they’re related to extension cords running to RVs or tents.

Political Scientist
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Political Scientist

Engineer Poet, I suspect you are correctamundo!

Rain Waters
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Rain Waters

Great idea !

soren
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soren

Corporations and businesses definitely discourage people from using outdoor outlets for a variety of regressive reasons. However, the lack of Level 1 EV charging outlets is largely due to the fact that these outlets are essentially useless for spot charging EVs.

Political Scientist
Guest
Political Scientist

HOLY COW! That a solar charger can’t charge a friggin bicycle battery on a cloudy day is not a good selling point for solar power and for EVs!

Watts
Guest
Watts

People should not have to figure out expensive, DIY solutions like this — especially when people who drive e-cars can do it free and easy.

Well, they don’t. The problem is not that they needed an adapter, but that the 120V plugs were not functioning. Those plugs work at night, so it was not a “too little sun” problem or a “cars get it free and easy and bikes get the shaft” problem, but rather a “another thing in Portland is broken probably because it has been abused” problem.

dave sobal
Guest

Not always free nor easy for cars. All too often I find charging stations that only work for Tesla, so my Leaf is not welcome.
I do agree that the term Electric Vehicle needs to be more inclusive to not jut be cars.

soren
Guest
soren

One of the reasons I am pessimistic about EV adoption in the USA is that existing charging stations are constantly going out of service (often permanently). There simply isn’t much interest from charging station ownership in maintaining this infrastructure.

Mike Quigley
Guest
Mike Quigley

Okay. But how about conflicts between electric bike vs. EV drivers at these public charging stations given their scarcity and the fact that so many of them are out of order at any given time? Also, can a bike battery handle a class 3 charging station (especially as more of them become available)?

Derp
Guest
Derp

Of course they can’t. The adapter is more like an over priced breakout plug to split the phases to unbalanced 5-15 female plugs for users to plug in their own DC rectifiers.

P Lewis
Guest
P Lewis

I agree that bikes should be considered in all of the car charging infrastructure being installed. However, if you are going to have to bring an expensive adapter with you, why is having to provide your own cord at a bike specific outlet being frames as a greater inconvenience?

Mark Wheeler
Guest
Mark Wheeler

OMSI staff told me about a year ago that they cut the power to those 110 outlets at night due to “abuse.” There are a couple others nearby (also OMSI) that have been taken offline recently too. It can be hard to find public exterior 110 outlets these days.

Watts
Guest
Watts

When abusers get their hands on the adapters like that featured in this article, we may end our experiment with free public vehicle charging altogether.

When no one can charge anything, there won’t be any complaints about inequitable access.

Frank Perillo
Guest
Frank Perillo

I would not want to be riding one of these overweight mopeds when power is knocked out or we have the coming rolling brownouts.

BradWagon
Subscriber

lol, ok

Steve
Guest
Steve

I would hate to be driving a multi-ton car when the gas stations shut down or gas is $5/gal.

Gerald H
Guest
Gerald H

I guess I could fall back on my solar panel, or use one of my generators, or plug into my car’s AC outlet, or use my 12v to 120v inverter, if it ever came down to it. I think I’ll be fine.

Ron Richings
Guest
Ron Richings

I have been trying for years to convince EV charger folks up here (Vancouver BC) that all installations should have regular 110 volt outlets so that electric bikes can charge too.
Such outlets can be current-limited and/or timed if unwanted users are a problem. And no need to charge for power since e-bikes use so little electricity.

Gerald H
Guest
Gerald H

There is a much less expensive option at https://www.evseadapters.com/products/j1772-ev-adapter-for-ebike/
Currently the one in the article has been raised to $185. This one is $85 as of March 17, 2022. I have not bought it (yet).

Rick F
Guest
Rick F

This is the stupidest idea I have seen in a long time. It is a gross misuse of technology, and takes away from automobile owners ability to recharge. There is already a massive shortage of auto charge stations in the USA. Why clog them up trickle charging or failing ebikes? There are faaaar better charge options for ebikes. Just carry a $20 quick charger on your ebike and charge from any 120v wall outlet. A J1772 won’t do the job better and there’s are 1000 120vac outlets in the we city for every one auto charge port.

rick
Guest
rick

Who pays for most of the charging stations?

Watts
Guest
Watts

The problem seems to be that the 120V outlets were broken or disabled. So while I don’t disagree with your sentiment here, it’s hard to blame those who are adapting to the circumstances they encounter.

Caleb
Guest
Caleb

IMO, your ire is misplaced, Rick F. Pushing for more charging stations is far more ideal than discouraging e-bike users from using them when they have no other option.