Imagine buying a new car, and suddenly, most gas stations are broken. That’s a reality new electric vehicle owners are finding when it comes to EV charging stations supplied by significant players like ChargePoint, Electrify America, and EVgo.
Many stations often result in customers leaving without a recharge thanks to unreliable or damaged hardware, and the situation is growing worse over time. For some EV owners, it might feel like the companies behind the charging networks are asleep at the wheel. But occasionally they stick their heads up to let us know they realize there’s a problem, and they’re laboring to fix it.
Today, for example, EVgo says it’s made “significant progress” with a renewal campaign designed to boost reliability at its stations.
It might feel like the companies behind the charging networks are asleep at the wheel
EVgo started its “ReNew” program in January, which it says helps the company quickly identify old and faulty chargers to upgrade or repair. Now, in the first two quarters this year, EVgo claims to have “upgraded, replaced, or decommissioned” 120 stalls. That’s about the same amount of chargers it had processed in the first three quarters of 2022.
EVgo also says that it has cut station repair times in half over the last 12 months, and its new stations all include at least four stalls, with many under construction that feature six or more. Besides EV owners having difficulty finding a charger that doesn’t have damaged cables, error codes, or network problems for payments or app connectivity, many are now discovering long lines at stations waiting for other EV owners to get their electron fill-ups.
In the last J.D. Power survey for customer satisfaction on DC fast chargers, EVgo scored below the segment average and slotted in between ChargePoint and Electrify America. Tesla, which operates more than 12,000 stalls in North America, is the only company to score above average. EVgo has about 1,900 fast chargers on its network.
New EV owners haven’t set careful expectations on charging availability and reliability
Early adopters tend to purchase EV with charging plans in place. Many get home chargers installed, identify work locations, and map out stations before heading out on a road trip. But as EVs increase in availability, many new owners may not have done as much research and have not set careful expectations on charging availability and reliability compared to gas stations.
EVgo is working to improve its customer service and add education to the mix to help new EV owners. That includes staffing more members for its 24/7 customer service offering to help with EV questions and providing account and charging help.
EVgo also owns PlugShare, the more than decade-old EV route mapping app powered by electric vehicle owners who check in at chargers and report their experiences. So, if someone is having an issue, EVgo should know fast. It seems many EVgo stations I’ve visited in the past are highly ranked, except for one at a closed rest stop (why aren’t there more at the other rest stops, EVgo?) But others in the past week in California have not had a good time.
Meanwhile, Tesla owners are enjoying the best experience for charging their EVs thanks to Tesla’s extensive network that includes easy charging “handshakes” that are handled by the car and not necessarily started by the app or stall payment screen. However, EVgo’s got content that includes a talk show-style video series to help teach EV drivers about electric cars and charging, as well as advertise the company’s plug-and-charge AutoCharge-Plus service that enables some EV models to start charging without opening the app.
EVgo has also added Tesla connectors at some of its stations to pull Tesla owners in — although it primarily only supports 50 kW speeds because it was based on CHAdeMO to Tesla adapters. However, for non-Tesla EVs, EVgo says “nearly all” its locations now include 350 kW chargers.
The charging landscape may evolve over time as Tesla’s once proprietary charging connector, now known as the North American Charging Standard (or NACS), is getting adopted by virtually every car brand.
That includes Ford, GM, Rivian, Volvo, Polestar, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Fisker, Honda, and Jaguar. As new EV models by these brands trickle out with NACS ports on board around 2025, EVgo and other charging companies like ChargePoint (which is trying to fix itself, too) might soon have fewer complications — and fewer excuses — to build a reliable network.