EV charging experience hurts industry, Battery Show panel says

Speaking about Electrify America CEO Robert Barrosa, Gunasekara was blunt.

“If he doesn’t achieve it, [he] shouldn’t get paid,” Gunasekara said. “I really think you need to do much better.”

Gunasekara charges his Audi E-tron GT at his home in the San Francisco Bay Area 99 percent of the time and tries to minimize his time using public chargers.

“Otherwise, you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere,” Gunasekara said. “It’s a real barrier.”

His concerns underscore the charging challenge in the U.S. At an event bursting with technology to accelerate the industry’s transition to electrification, experts said the charging experience of today remains a major hurdle.

More than 57,000 public charging stations are scattered across the U.S., according to the Department of Energy, but 1 in 5 charging attempts failed last year, J.D. Power says. The Biden administration has called for 500,000 public chargers by 2030. Those chargers, and existing chargers, need to work for consumers to buy EVs, panelists said.

“This is the zeitgeist of the industry right now,” said Oliver Phillips, COO at Qmerit. “It’s not fatal. It just requires more coordination.”

Stakeholders, including charging companies, automakers, utilities and policymakers, haven’t coordinated well enough to complete basic tasks, such as minor charger repairs, he said.

Some automakers have partnered with EV charging companies. Some plan to develop their own charging network joint venture, and some have partnered with Tesla to allow their customers to charge on Tesla’s fast chargers.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides $5 billion to states through 2026 to build EV chargers along U.S. highways, including interstates and alternative fuel corridors, through the law’s National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program.

This week, the Biden administration expanded funding for charger maintenance, announcing it would provide up to $100 million in federal funding to repair and replace non-operational chargers.

Panelists were eager to see an industrywide standard set for reliability, especially as more automakers adopt Tesla’s plug.

Expanding charger access and deployment is essential, but reliability needs to come first, they said. The industry needs “to get out of the number chase,” said Tommy Doran, manager of EV infrastructure and charging experience at General Motors’ energy unit, GM Energy.

High-quality chargers and a reliable experience take priority over fast deployment, he said.

“We are focused on the customer experience,” Doran said. “It makes no sense to have super fast deployment of the charging stations if when you pull up to charge, it doesn’t work.”

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