Imagine this scenario if you were a new EV owner.
You just got a new Chevy Bolt. You take it on your first long-distance trip. And, brimming with anticipation, you make your first stop at a highway charging station. But anticipation turns to frustration because none of the chargers work.
No one could blame you for asking, “What did I get myself into?” by buying an EV.
Because I’m a longtime EV owner, my thought was simply, “This sucks. My next EV will be a Tesla.” (I drive a 2018 Chevy Bolt).
The scenario above happened to me at a new Electrify Americacharging station in Mojave, Calif. recently. My first three attempts on three separate fast chargers (some are 150 kW, some are 350 kW) failed. My fourth attempt on the fourth fast charger worked — but only after a lengthy conversation with an Electrify America tech support person.
In all, it took about an hour and a half to get close to a 90 percent charge. Who has that kind of time
Mac Vs. PC
“What we’re seeing really is an Apple versus PC moment in EVs,” Eric Way, who has a YouTube channel that rates non-Tesla EV charging stations, told me in an email
“When you buy Tesla, everything is designed to work together. There are no compatibility issues, and Tesla holds their owners’ hands through all the ways that EVs are different than fossil cars,” Way said.
As it turned out, my 2018 Chevy Bolt charging port is sensitive to the weight of the charging plug.
“The CCS socket on the Bolt EV tends to be very sensitive, which can cause issues with some of the heavier, liquid-cooled CCS cables, especially when they are stretched or plugged in at odd angles,” Way told me, confirming what the Electrify America tech support person told me.
But that wasn’t the only problem with the Electrify America chargers at this location. A few of the chargers simply said “not available” and another one I tried crashed.
Charging infrastructure is still a hurdle for potential first-time EV buyers
It’s still morning in electric-car America. To stretch the Windows-Mac analogy, I’m not sure, at this early stage of the market, if I want to own a circa 1998 Windows PC that constantly crashes when hooked up to a peripheral that I desperately need to use.
Here’s the problem: General Motors, Ford, and Japanese and European EV makers will sell you the car but after that you’re on your own. That’s scary to a lot of potential EV buyers. Those are the same buyers automakers are hoping will drive the next EV buying cycles in 2021 and beyond.
But Way, who has driven his Bolt over one hundred thousand miles, says it isn’t all bad news.
“At this point, the Tesla ecosystem is probably the most convenient, easy to use option for those who are completely new to EVs, but that advantage is narrowing quickly,” he said.
“Integrated navigation systems, third party route planners, and a faster, more diverse public charging infrastructure will enable the next generation of non-Tesla EVs to be just as compelling and easy to use as Teslas,” Way said.