Broken US Public EV Chargers Stop One-in-Five Owners Charging

One-in-five EV owners leave public US charging stations without any electricity charge because of faults in the charging installations.

That’s among the findings in J.D. Power’s US Electric Vehicle Experience (EVX) Public Charging Study, which also criticized the pace of charging infrastructure roll-out in many states whose existing public charging network was described as “inadequate”. The report suggested that the growth of EV sales during the past year has been “remarkable but has added stress to an already beleaguered public vehicle charging infrastructure”.

It cited that consumers in high EV volume markets like California, Texas and Washington, for instance, are finding the charging infrastructure inadequate and plagued with non-functioning stations. Despite more public charging stations now in operation than ever before, customer satisfaction with public Level 2 charging declined from last year, dropping to 633 (on a 1,000-point scale) from 643 in 2021, while satisfaction with the speedier DC (direct current) fast charger segment remains flat at 674.

The reports said this lack of progress must be addressed because, as EVs gain wider consumer acceptance, the shortage of public charging availability is the top reason vehicle shoppers reject EVs. Tesla Destination ranks highest among Level 2 charge point operators with a score of 680 and Tesla Supercharger ranks highest among DC fast chargers with a score of 739.

The key findings of the 2022 study are:

  • Most owners relatively satisfied with ease of charging process: Satisfaction with the ease of charging at a DC fast charger is 745 among battery electric vehicle (BEV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) owners, and satisfaction with the ease of charging at a Level 2 charging station is 699. This indicates that current EV owners understand the operation of both types of chargers, so the systems themselves do not prompt issues. However, virtually all other attributes related to public charging score lower. Some, like cost of charging, are much lower: 473 for DC fast chargers and 446 for Level 2 chargers.
  • Public charger operability and maintenance a key issue: Growth of the public charging infrastructure is making it easier for EV owners to find public charging stations. The index for ease of finding a location is 724 among users of DC fast chargers and 683 among users of Level 2 chargers. Yet the industry needs to do a better job of maintaining existing charging stations. The study finds that one out of every five respondents ended up not charging their vehicle during their visit. Of those who didn’t charge, 72% indicated that it was owing to the station malfunctioning or being out of service.
  • Owner satisfaction with availability of public charging stations differs by region: Led by California, the Pacific region has the highest number of public chargers. At the same time, it has the highest concentration of EV owners, yet they are not as satisfied with the availability and condition of public chargers as EV owners in some other geographic areas. The West North Central region (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota) has the highest level of satisfaction with the availability of public charging. The East North Central region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin) has the highest level of satisfaction with the condition of public chargers.
  • DC fast charger users are planners: Users of Level 2 chargers cite convenience and price as the two key reasons for choosing a charging location. Users of DC fast chargers, on the other hand, are often on a planned road trip which, along with convenience, determines their choice of charging location. Often, they have few logical alternatives.

Brent Gruber, executive director of global automotive at J.D. Power, said: “Public charging continues to provide challenges to overall EV adoption and current EV owners alike. 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. The National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program promises to provide funds to states for building out their EV public charging infrastructure. This will lead to sizable growth in the availability of EV charging stations, but just adding stations isn’t the answer. Stations need to be added to areas where there are currently gaps in heavily traveled routes and in high-density areas for people who don’t have access to residential charging, but most importantly, designed with things for users to do while charging, regardless of the use case. Then, we need to make sure those stations are reliable.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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