The Electric Charging Experience Is Hindering EV Adoption


Photo: Bing Guan/Bloomberg (Getty Images)

Filling your car with gas is easy. You pull up to a pump, put the nozzle in the hole, and hit the button for the cheapest swill your car will accept. A few minutes later, it clicks, and you’re done. Charging electric devices is even simpler — we’ve all plugged in a phone, put a toothbrush on a stand, or popped a battery into a wall charger. So why is charging an electric car so difficult?

It seems there are a few reasons: Unreliable chargers with finicky connections to the cars they’re serving, the struggles of coding software to play nice with every single make and model — even EV owners who take up fast-charging spots with their slow-charging cars. The EV charging experience is bad, and it’s making electric car ownership (or the appeal of it) difficult.

Image for article titled The Electric Charging Experience Is Hindering EV Adoption

Photo: Bing Guan/Bloomberg (Getty Images)

A new report from Automotive News investigated what makes EV charging so frustrating. The first major hitch they found was the physical state of the chargers: Often broken, glitching, or out of commission for updates. The report also mentioned slow, unreliable communications between chargers and cars — something I’ve even experienced in my own EV adventures. It can take repeated attempts, unplugging and plugging-in the car, until the two start to play nice.

That is, of course, assuming the two will ever talk. With myriad EVs coming from all manner of companies, Automotive News found that it was difficult to develop charger software that worked with every car. The article stated this as an advantage to the Tesla approach — when one brand builds the cars and the chargers, coding them to cooperate is trivial.

Owner education, too, was cited as a concern. Gas-powered cars parking in EV charging spots is widely regarded as a dick move, but a subtler issue comes when owners of slower-charging EVs take up fast-charging spots. A Chevy Bolt may not be able to handle the high charging speeds of a Rivian, but the Bolt owner may not know — and may default to the charger with the biggest number on it.

Automotive News found that these issues, plus even more relating to fees and payment processing, are hindering EV adoption. Range anxiety is one thing — many people can be convinced that they do not, in fact, drive six hundred miles on their average commute. But horror stories of charging issues still turn prospective buyers off from going electric, and are yet another factor holding up the full-scale EV transition.