Electric vehicles owners have a major problem that't plaguing them, and if it doesn't get better the whole industry could break.
It’s coming. Well, we’ve been warned it’s coming. As part of President Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda by 2030, 50% of the cars being sold will be fully electric vehicles with the ultimate plan to be fully carbon-neutral by 2050. If you ask electric vehicle owners of today, we have a lot of work ahead of us.
THE COMMON COMPLAINT
If you go up to an electric vehicle owner and ask them how it’s going, one of the first things you might hear is just how poor the electric vehicle infrastructure is. By that we mean the public electric vehicle charging stations. What many electric vehicle owners are finding as they venture out beyond the electric comfort of their own homes is that many of the charging stations are surrounded by poor maintenance. Chargers are broken, the screens are busted, and the software is sluggish at best.
J.D. Power did what they do best and tapped on over 11,550 electric vehicle owners’ shoulders as well as plug-in hybrid car owners to survey them about how life in the electric vehicle realm is treating them. Although the number of public electric vehicle charging stations has increased dramatically over the past couple of years, the overall and prevailing experience these owners are reporting is that it still sucks.
IS IT WORSE?
To get firm numbers, the J.D. Power electric vehicle owners survey rated their experience on a 1,000-point scale. According to the survey takers, charging their EV at a public Level 2 charging station is much worse than it was last year. In 2021, electric vehicle owners’ satisfaction was at 643 out of that 1,000-point system and now it has dropped to 633.
“Not only is the availability of public charging still an obstacle, but EV owners continue to be faced with charging station equipment that is inoperable,” Brent Gruber, executive director of global automotive at JD Power, said in a statement via The Verge. What electric vehicle owners are discovering is that while it has never been easier to find a public charger, the shape they are in when found is a whole other matter.
Right now across the United States, there are around 41,000 public charging stations. These are outfitted with over 100,000 outlets. Even though most, if not all, electric vehicle owners have their own charging stations at home so they charge their car at night while they sleep, if we are going to get even remotely close to the numbers the government is saying we need to hit, then there will need to be many more charging stations built and these will have to be probably even more reliable than the gas stations we have now. Is it even possible?
CAN IT GET BETTER?
Right now it is estimated that of the over 250 million cars we have on the road in the United States, barely 1% of them are electric vehicles. That is a scarily low number considering where the public at large is expected to be by 2030. Someone’s got their work cut out for them.
Right now, though, even with all the unhappiness with electric vehicle owners, kudos need to be given out to Elon Musk and his Tesla crew. According to the J.D. Power Electric Vehicle Experience Public Charging Study, Tesla finds itself ranking near the top in customer satisfaction, perhaps because they have been doing it longer. What makes them score so high in the eyes of the electric vehicle owners is the fact that Tesla’s Destination wall-mounted Level 2 chargers are highly thought of. These can be found most often in hotels and parking garages and they don’t seem to break down as often. They received a score of 680. The charger that electric vehicle owners felt best suited their needs was the Tesla DC Supercharger. This fast charger came out on top with a score of 739.
But Tesla’s great numbers do nothing for the electric vehicle owners who don’t own a Tesla. Those in the know claim that Tesla’s electrical network works so well because it is designed to only work with Tesla’s electric vehicles. If non-Tesla owners wish to purchase the use of a public Tesla charging station, they will first need an adapter before they can access the Tesla Supercharger.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are over 6,800 Tesla Supercharger plugs across the nation. This could be one of the reasons that electric vehicle owners, those who don’t own a Tesla, are so miffed. The more people that have to use the few non-Tesla charging stations, the more opportunities there are to destroy the equipment. The good news for you non-Tesla electric vehicle owners is that Musk says Tesla plans on opening up their Supercharger stations for those electric vehicles before the end of the year.
Compared to Tesla, electric vehicle owners ranked charging companies much lower. After Tesla, the Level 2 charging providers look like this: Volta (667) came in second behind Tesla. Then came ChargePoint (639), SemaConnect (557), and Blink (560). As far as DC charging companies, after Tesla came ChargePoint (644), Electrify America (614), and EVgo (573).
While the future does not look too bright for electric vehicle owners, they have been offered a small glimmer of hope. President Biden and his administration were able to secure $5 billion to help fund the electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Most of the $5 billion will be directed towards the states so they can create a long network of electric vehicle charging stations. These stations look to be built along the designated “Alternative Fuel Corridors” which have been defined by the government as 165,722 miles of the country’s National Highway System. This covers 49 states and the District of Columbia.
To speed up the process of making these new charging stations a reality, the government has given guidelines that will award companies a contract if they meet the requirements of building charging stations that are affordable, convenient, and completely accessible to the largest number of cars possible (don’t worry about the lines to get a charge). These contracts will also be awarded to those who can guarantee their chargers will be nearly 100 percent functional and have software that will follow the technical standards in communicating with the electric vehicles.