Is Charging Your EV At The Airport Really That Much Of A Pain In The…?

It's getting better these days, but there are still some changes facilities could make

2017 nissan leaf charging in progress
(Images: TFLcar)

During a snowy Colorado week, I parked my Nissan Leaf at a Level 2 charging station through ‘ParkDIA’.

I had a press event to attend in warm and sunny Florida, and opted to try ParkDIA — a facility near Denver’s airport — to charge my vehicle while I was gone. There are several parking options at Denver International Airport, from their pricey on-site parking to less expensive services like ParkDIA farther from the terminal. Recently, Roman tried the pricy on-site underground parking with his EV Mini, and it didn’t go well, as you can see below.

ParkDIA is a bit under 5 miles from the terminal, but offers a reliable shuttle service that stops near every parking section. If needed, the driver will even write up a ticket reminding you where you parked. It takes between 5-15 minutes to get to the airport after pickup, depending on when you get there.

I own (or, rather, I stole my kid’s car that I bought) a 2016 Nissan Leaf. It has about 75 to 80 miles of range in its 30 kWh battery during warm days. But, that remaining range for this five-year-old EV drops precipitously when it’s cold. Given the weather system hitting Denver, I decided to give the kiddo my Jeep, and I would take her Nissan. At the time, I knew that with freezing temperatures and a 40-mile trek to the airport, I could be in for a charging debacle. There was no way that the Leaf could get me home if it was freezing, left out in the cold, and wasn’t charged during my press trip.

There are 12 Level 2 outlets at ParkDIA — not that you’ll necessarily have free choice over which one to use every time. (Image: TFLcar)

So, is charging a pain at ParkDIA?

On this trip, I noticed several charging stations near the front of its covered parking section. It had a few open stations, and it appeared to have all twelve plugs working. But, as some nay-sayers may immediately point out, there’s a catch. The charging is actually free, and part of the covered parking, if there’s a station available. More on that in a moment.

The process to reserve parking at ParkDIA is fairly straightforward, and you can get through the reservation process in about 5 minutes. However, I noticed that there was nothing in the registration process that mentioned the chargers. There is no way to reserve them, or to see if they are currently in use. In fact, I even called ParkDIA to see if they knew if there were any empty chargers.

The polite employee stated that it is first-come-first-served. They have no way of knowing which unit (if any) is open. So, you could be rolling the dice depending on when you bring your EV to their lot.

A reference for anyone traveling through Denver Airport: Covered parking rates are $14.95 per day, if you reserve a spot early, or $15.95 per day when you park without a reservation. Right now, ParkDIA is running a $5.00 per-day uncovered parking special if you don’t need to be at an EV charger (or otherwise don’t mind parking your car in the elements).

This is their blurb on parking at Denver’s airport:

“ParkDIA is proud to now offer EV charging stations for no additional cost in our covered lot. Keep your car fully charged at one of our 12 car charging stations near DIA, so when you get back from your trip, your car is ready to go! If you have any questions about our charging stations regarding if your car is compatible, which it probably is, contact us now.”

Some of these Teslas looked like they had been parked there for a while — like a month or two.

Huzzah! The parking gods smiled upon me (this time)

There are very few charging options near DIA. I had to gamble to see if I had an open charger when I got to ParkDIA. Fortunately, there was ONE left! As I plugged in my Leaf, I noticed that some of the vehicles have been there for a while. It was apparent that those chargers were plugged into a vehicle that could have been there for a month or more.

The chargers themselves were easy enough to use. If you own a Tesla, you will need to bring an adaptor, which most owners have. There are no buttons to push, as you merely have to grab the SAE J1772 plug and po it in. The light will come on indicating you’re charging, and off you go.

A couple criticisms

When I returned on a 12-degree Fahrenheit evening, the old Nissan Leaf was fully charged and good to go. Despite my good experience, this is where ParkDIA needs to make some changes. At the very least, they should have a method to where they can tell you whether or not chargers were available. Or, perhaps they could add more charging units, including a slew of 120 volt outlets so folks can at least charge at Level 1 (1.3kW – 2.4 kW). That would be a huge help.

All in all — this is not a sponsored take — but I was pleased with ParkDIA. I had a better overall experience than its nearby competitors, all of whom I’ve sampled over the years. It’s a well-maintained facility, and both parking options are as good, if not better, than parking within the airport’s own lots (only a couple of which get you any closer to the terminal anyway). It’s a little off the beaten path, but not too far, and needing to use an EV charger is a bit of a gamble.

Then again, so is every other option apart from parking right next to the airport. That’s an expensive proposition, not to mention you still have to get lucky with an open EV charger. On that subject, Roman did just that, and at least my experience was less expensive and less stressful than his parking issues