Ask most people what is holding back the electric car revolution and they will tell you it is a lack of EV charging infrastructure. Confusion about how charging stations work is a close second. Recently, Alex Davis wrote an long and sometimes amusing piece for Wired that focuses on the difficulties he encountered finding places to charge the Nissan LEAF he borrowed for week long test drive.
He begins by explaining why an EV is fundamentally different from a car with an internal combustion engine. It’s more like a smartphone. Use it, plug it in overnight, use it again the next day. He calls it the “grazing versus gorging” model. Which is all well and good if you have a place to plug your EV in overnight. Davis lives in an apartment building in San Francisco and so he was totally dependent on public chargers. That’s where his problems began.
When he needed to recharge, the navigation system directed him to a facility that was no longer functional. Precious miles were wasted driving to the closed location, which only made his need to find a working charger more critical. Next, he drove to a hospital parking lot, spent ten minutes driving around but could not locate the charger that was supposed to be there.
Ah hah! There’s a charger at a nearby mall according to his smartphone app. Except this charger is not part of the ChargePoint network that his borrowed LEAF is linked to. Frustrating minutes leak by while he struggles to set up an account so he can access the charger. Fortunately, it’s not raining. After establishing an account, he plugs in but the car won’t connect to the charger.
Davis spots a ChargePoint location on the other side of the mall, but both chargers are in use. He has to wait 20 minutes for one of them to become available, than another 30 minutes to get enough of a charge to get home. A trip that should have taken an hour took three. Plus, Davis’ nerves are seriously jangled as a result of his travails. That’s why many people want nothing to do with an electric car.