A Day in the Life of an EV Driver
It has been over a year and a half since I jumped into the electric vehicle (EV) world
For this installment of my series on life as a new EV owner, I want to share with you the current state of long-distance charging stations.
First off, whenever I’m buzzing around my hometown, I always have the comfort of knowing my home charging station is close by.
This all changes when travel takes you beyond the reach of your home power cord.
When traveling long distances in an EV, you must think differently.
How far is it to your destination? How many times do you need to stop to charge? Where are the charging stations?
All this takes effort, and travel planning is essential.
Early on in my EV ownership, I found that most charging stations were lightly used, and often I was the only car hooking up.
But now, only a year and a half later, it’s a very different scene.
Rarely do I pull up and there isn’t some jockeying to get to the next available charger.
Before I dive into the dirty details of this trip, let me caveat that my experience is solely with Electrify America charging stations. It’s not that I can’t use others. But, hey, I’ve got three years of free charging on this network through my charging plan, and I’m taking full advantage of “free”!
On the Road Again
The first charging station wasn’t bad. This station has eight charging ports.
Right away, one charger is down and out – there’s a repair technician standing next to it up to his elbows in wires.
Four others are in use – the owners are probably roaming the aisles of the nearby Walmart. That left three open – great, no waiting.
So, I back into a stall, belly up to the charger, plug her in, and… nothing.
Yep, not connecting
The way it’s supposed to work – and has every other time I’ve charged – is the charger recognizes my vehicle and charging plan, and it starts charging. In this case, nothing.
It doesn’t go much better at a different charger. The charger is connecting. But now it does not recognize my vehicle or plan and is asking for a credit card or to login.
At this point a little panic set in… But I stay calm. I can conquer this glitch.
From the Electrify America app, I can select the charger, as opposed to the charger selecting me. So, I go to the charging station in the app and select to charge on No. 5.
Charging station No. 5 lights up, and – bingo! I’m off and charging. But dang… It should work the way it’s supposed to without me having to solve a problem.
OK, as some country star sang, I’m on the road again.
Eventually, I pull into the next station on my trip for a charge. Now, this station only has four chargers. Of the four, only two are working. And I can’t help noticing that a little old lady at one of the working chargers is on her phone and seems flustered.
I step over to see what’s going on and quickly realize this poor lady is having an awful time trying to get the charger to work.
She tells me this is the first time she has ever been at a public charging station.
Her husband had purchased the EV several months ago, and they always charged at the house.
Sadly, her husband recently passed away, and she’s trying to drive to South Florida. It isn’t going well, and she’s upset.
At this point, I try to help. She already has Electrify America support on the phone, and they’re trying to walk her through the process.
The thing is, she has the exact same car as me, and the exact same free Electrify America plan.
She should be able to pull up, plug in, and charge. The technology is failing her.
Long story short, we’re able to get this sweet little old lady on her way to South Florida.
But the damage had been done at this stop. Between the two broken chargers and having to take a lot of time getting this car on its way, cars were backed up around the corner waiting for a charge.
Three Problems Holding Back EV Adoption
It’s experiences like this that will leave the average person running to the fossil fuel hills.
What led to this day’s charging debacles? I spent years running business transformation teams, and I think it’s a culmination of several things.
1. The technology needs to be user friendly
It’s a big problem if charging is this complicated.
When designing for usability, I often told my consultants that my grandmother has to be able to use it.
Well, Electrify America failed with that when the sweet little old lady tried to drive to South Florida.
2. Chargers need to be reliable.
It’s unacceptable to pull up to these stations and see half the chargers inoperable. And I fear things may get worse before they get better.
If Electrify America (or any other EV charging company) continues to build out infrastructure but not take into consideration operation and maintenance, then there will be big problems.
(I spoke with one gentleman at the station, and he told me that the chargers had been down for days. That’s unacceptable.)
Chargers need to be able to take the beatings of commercial use. There needs to be ample field support to ensure service is restored.
3. These things just need to work.
You shouldn’t need an engineering degree to charge your car.
All that said, I still love my EV. And I realize with any new technology there will be issues.
But really, at what point do we stop calling EVs new technology and consider them mainstream? Hopefully, my experience on this trip doesn’t become the norm… or else mainstream is a long way off.
For the Good,
P.S. As part of its new climate action plan, the U.S. government has tried to make EV charging stations a focal point. Click here for more.
Numbers to Know
How many electric mail trucks the U.S. Postal Service is set to roll out in the coming years. This transition is part of President Joe Biden’s directive that all new government-owned vehicles must be electric by 2035. (The Washington Post)
The number of preorders for Tesla’s Cybertruck. CEO Elon Musk has been hyping the electric pickup truck as not only Tesla’s best vehicle yet, but as possibly the best product ever. The company says it’s on track to start production in mid-2023. (electrek)
How much consumers spent on online shopping this Black Friday – a new record. Overall online sales for the day after Thanksgiving were up 2.3% year over year, and electronics, toys, and exercise equipment were major contributors. (CNBC)
What’s New in Sustainable Investing
France’s first commercial-scale offshore wind project is now fully operational. The news represents a significant step forward for the country’s offshore wind sector, with more projects set to come online in the years ahead. In a statement last week, multinational utility EDF said the wind farm would help to “support the French State’s energy transition goals, which include targets to generate 32% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.” (CNBC)
Natural Energy is Europe’s largest producer of renewable natural gas, a purified form of biogas that’s chemically identical to conventional fossil natural gas and can be carried by existing pipelines and distribution networks. Shell said on Monday it will acquire the Denmark-based company for $2 billion, continuing a trend of majors buying biofuel assets this year to advance their transition agendas. (Energy Intelligence)
Links We Like
“In order to lift our collective foot from the accelerator taking us to certain climate doom, the World Resources Institute, an environmental research organization, suggests that residents of the Americas, Europe, and Oceania limit their consumption of red meat to the equivalent of two burgers a week. Israeli startup Aleph Farms says it would be better to eat steak. Its steak, that is – a rich slab of meat grown from stem cells, in a bioreactor, no cows or slaughter required.” (Time)
“Some 82 tribes across the U.S. from New York to Alaska now have more than 20,000 bison in 65 herds. And that’s been growing in recent years along with the desire among Native Americans to reclaim stewardship of an animal their ancestors lived alongside and depended upon for millennia.” (The Guardian)
“Equipping the most vulnerable households with rooftop solar could quite literally save lives. These families deserve the same access to energy security as the people who are already buying solar panels and batteries in droves.” (Utility Dive)