Electric Vehicle Charging Overview. Ev vehicle charging station

Electric Vehicle Charging Overview

Imagine never having to stop at a gas station again – and instead, having an unlimited supply of fuel available at home or wherever you normally park. For many electric vehicle (EV) drivers, this is a reality. Battery electric vehicles never need gas, and for short trips, plug–in hybrids might use no gas.

EV charging is simple, cost–effective, clean and convenient, particularly when you are plugged in at home – filling up your car, even while you’re asleep.

There are three categories of electric vehicle (EV) charging: Level 1, Level 2 and DC fast charging. Levels 1 and 2 charging use a universal connector that can be plugged into any EV. DC fast charging uses three different connector systems called CHAdeMO, CCS Combo and Tesla Supercharger.

Although EV drivers primarily charge at home, workplace and public chargers are increasingly available in communities nationwide. Use our EV Charging Station Map to find nearby charging stations.

Level 1 Charging

Level 1 is the slowest method of charging but is sufficient for drivers who charge overnight and travel 30–40 miles per day. Charging cables usually come with a vehicle and plug into a standard 120–volt AC outlet with no equipment installation required. Level 1 charging works well for charging at home, work or anywhere a standard outlet is available – and when you have sufficient time to charge.

Level 1 charging uses a standard J1772 or Tesla connector that can plug into any EV, either directly, or through an adapter.

Level 1 charging adds about 3.5 – 6.5 miles of driving range per hour of charging time.

Level 2 Charging

Level 2 charging is considerably faster, but requires installing a charging station, also known as electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE). EVSE requires a dedicated 240–volt or 208–volt electrical circuit, similar to what is required for a clothes dryer or electric range. Level 2 is found at many public and workplace charging stations, but also in many homes. It uses the same standard connector as Level 1 charging, meaning any EV can plug in at any Level 2 charger.

Level 2 charging uses a standard J1772 or Tesla connector that can plug into any EV, either directly, or through an adapter.

Depending on battery type, charger configuration and circuit capacity, Level 2 charging adds about 14 – 35 miles of range per hour of charging time.

DC Fast Charging

DC fast charging, also called quick charging or supercharging, provides the fastest available fill–up. It requires a 480–volt connection, making DC fast charging unsuitable for home use, and not every EV model is equipped for it. Stations offering DC fast charging are found in shopping centers and often along major travel corridors, allowing EV drivers to charge up quickly and take longer trips.

DC fast charging uses CHAdeMO, CCS or Tesla connector systems. Check with your vehicle manufacturer to determine if your car has fast charging capability and what connector systems are compatible with your EV.

electric, vehicle, charging, overview

Depending on battery type, charger configuration and circuit capacity, DC fast charging can add up to 100 miles of range in about 30 minutes of charging time.

Electric Vehicle Charging Costs

Home Charging CostsThe cost to charge your electric vehicle depends on your vehicle’s battery size and the price of electricity where you live. Most utilities offer time–of–use (TOU) rates that greatly reduce costs associated with charging a vehicle at home by charging during off–peak hours. Contact your utility to find out more. 1

While electricity costs vary greatly, the average cost of electricity in California is about 16.58¢ per kilowatt hour (kWh). 2 At this price point, charging a 40–kWh battery with a 150–mile range would cost about 4.42¢ per mile (or about 6.63 to fully charge). Meanwhile, fueling a 25–mpg gas vehicle at California’s average gas price of 3.11 per gallon 3 would cost about 12.44¢ per mile (or about 18.66 for enough gas to drive approximately 150 miles).

Home charging costs can be offset by hosting your charger on a home charging sharing network. EV drivers can earn money by sharing their home chargers or connect with other hosts to find convenient charging on the go. For more information about how you can earn money by sharing your home charger, please see these popular sharing networks:

Public Charging CostsWhile charging at home is generally preferred, many people also charge their EV at public charging stations. These stations can be free, pay–as–you–go or subscription-based, and are set by networks or property owners. Some vehicle manufacturers, such as Hyundai, Nissan and Tesla also provide complimentary public charging.

One popular public charging network charges members 1.50 per hour to charge on Level 2, and 26¢ per minute for DC fast charging in California. 4 At these rates, charging a 40–kWh battery with a 150–mile range would cost about 8¢ per mile on Level 2, and 9¢ per mile for DC fast charging.

For more information about public charging networks, here are some popular options available in California:

1 A list of utility providers is at https://www.energy.ca.gov/almanac/electricity_data/utilities.html2 https://www.eia.gov/electricity/state3 https://www.energy.gov/articles/egallon-how-much-cheaper-it-drive-electricity4 https://www.evgo.com/charging-plans/

Charging Station Rebates

Rebates for Residential Level 2 Charging StationsMany California utility providers and air districts offer rebates to make home Level 2 charging stations more affordable. Some of the rebates also help to offset the cost of installing the charging station at your home if additional electrical work is required. Find available rebates where you live.

Rebates for Commercial EV Charging StationsProperty owners can take advantage of rebates for installing commercial charging stations for public use. EV charging is a desired amenity for many California drivers and can attract more traffic to your business, improve tenant or employee satisfaction and generate a new revenue stream (fees for charging). Following are incentives that decrease the cost of charger purchases and installation. Visit the websites for more information on program eligibility requirements and funding availability.

Utility Incentives

Air District Incentives

How Long Does It Take to Charge an Electric Vehicle?

There is no simple answer, but knowing the variables will help you better estimate the time it takes for an EV fill-up.

Figuring precisely how long it takes to charge an electric car is akin to asking, How long does it take to cross the country? It depends on whether you’re on a plane or on foot. Recharge time is dependent on a host of variables, many of them nuanced—even the length of the charging cable can influence it—that make providing a precise answer impossible. But we can give you some reliable guidelines.

Ignoring the more minute variables, the charging time of a vehicle comes down to a few primary factors: power source, the vehicle‘s charger capacity, and battery size. Ambient conditions play a smaller part, with both cold- and hot-weather extremes adding to charge time.

Factors That Affect Charging Time

Charger Level

Let’s start with the power source. Not all electrical outlets are created equal. The common 120-volt, 15-amp receptacle in a kitchen is to a 240-volt outlet that powers an electric dryer as a squirt gun is to a garden hose. All electric vehicles can, theoretically, charge their large batteries off the standard kitchen outlet, but imagine trying to fill a 55-gallon barrel with a squirt gun. Recharging an EV battery with a 120-volt source—these are categorized as Level 1 according to SAE J1772, a standard that engineers use to design EVs—is measured in days, not hours.

If you own or plan to own an EV you’ll be wise to consider having a 240-volt Level 2 charging solution installed in your home. A typical Level 2 connection is 240 volts and 40 to 50 amps. While fewer amps is still considered Level 2, a 50-amp circuit will maximize most EV’s onboard chargers (more on those in a minute). Because, if you’re not maximizing the effectiveness of the vehicle‘s onboard chargers, a lower-than-optimal power source is essentially a restrictor plate that lengthens the charge time.

For the absolute fastest charging possible, you’ll want to plug into a Level 3 connection, colloquially known as a DC fast charger. These are the EV equivalent of filling that barrel with a fire hose. A certifiably lethal current of DC power is pumped into the car’s battery, and miles of range are added in short order. Tesla’s V3 Superchargers pump out up to 250 kW and Electrify America’s automotive defibrillators fire out up to 350 kW of heart-stopping power. But like all charging, the flow is throttled back when the vehicle battery’s state-of-charge (SoC) is nearing full. And vehicles’ ability to accept DC charging varies widely. The Porsche Taycan, for example, can charge at up to 270 kW, while a Chevy Bolt EV can manage only 50 kW.

How Much Range Does a Fast-Charger Add in a Half-Hour?

Generally speaking, when an EV battery’s SoC is below 10 percent or above 80 percent, a DC fast charger’s charging rate slows considerably; this optimizes battery life and limits the risk of overcharging. This is why, for example, manufacturers often claim that fast-charging will get your EV’s battery to 80 percent charge in 30 minutes. Some vehicles have a battery preconditioning procedure that ensures the battery is at optimum temperature for Rapid charging while en route to a DC fast charger. So long as you utilize the in-car navigation system to get you there, that is.

Maximum Charging and Driving Range

That last 20 percent of charge may double the time you’re hooked up to the fast charger. The time-consuming affair of completely filling the battery via a DC charger makes these units best utilized on those days when you are traveling a long distance and need additional electricity to reach your destination. Charging at home overnight–sometimes called top-up charging–is a better solution for getting the juice you’ll need for daily, local driving.

Battery Size

As the hunt for range supremacy continues, the battery capacity of some EVs has ballooned to absurd levels. Others are targeting increased efficiency. This plays a massive role in charging time. Upsize our barrel to an 85-gallon unit. Even with a fire hose, it’ll still take longer to fill than the smaller 55-gallon barrel. While a GMC Hummer EV is built on an architecture capable of 350-kW intake, filling its 212.7-kWh battery compared to the 112.0-kWh pack found in a Lucid Air Grand Touring requires exponentially more time, even if the charging rate is similar. The Lucid can travel over 40 percent further on a charge while having 100 kWh fewer in its battery pack than the Hummer. Efficiency, indeed.

No doubt someday manufacturers will settle on a single metric for expressing charge times. But for now, know that filling up an EV’s battery still takes considerably longer than topping off a gas-powered car’s fuel tank no matter how or where you do it.

There is a common misconception that the thing you plug into an electric car is the charger. In fact, there’s a battery charger in the car that converts the AC electricity from the wall into DC electricity to charge the battery. Onboard chargers trickle power into the battery pack safely and have their own power ratings, typically in kilowatts. If a car has a 10.0-kW charger and a 100.0-kWh battery pack, it would, in theory, take 10 hours to charge a fully depleted battery.

To gauge the optimal charge time of a specific EV, you divide the battery capacity’s kWh number by the onboard charger’s power rating, then add 10 percent, because there are losses associated with charging. This is assuming the power source can maximize the vehicle’s charger.

Typical onboard chargers are at least 6.0 kilowatts, but some manufacturers offer nearly twice that, and the cream-of-the-crop have more than triple that figure. The current Tesla Model 3 Performance, for instance, has an 11.5-kW charger, which can take full advantage of a 240-volt, 60-amp circuit to recharge its 80.8-kWh battery, while the rear-wheel-drive Model 3 comes with a 7.6-kW charger. Doing the recharge-time math indicates that it will take nearly the same time to fill the two cars’ batteries, though the Performance model’s is roughly 30 percent larger. The beauty of a well-paired electricity source and onboard charger is that you can plug your EV in at home with a nearly depleted battery and have a fully charged steed waiting for you in the morning. You can also find approximate recharge times on some EV manufacturers’ websites.

K.C. Colwell is Car and Driver’s executive editor, who covers new cars and technology with a keen eye for automotive nonsense and with what he considers to be great car sense, which is a humblebrag. On his first day at C/D in 2004, he was given the keys to a Porsche 911 by someone who didn’t even know if he had a driver’s license. He also is one of the drivers who set fast laps at C/D’s annual Lightning Lap track test.

Jacob Kurowicki’s love affair with cars doesn’t end at track weapons and posh land yachts, but rather extends to the dopey and eccentric. Pining for a Pontiac Sunfire GT as a child was the first indicator, but an ongoing desire for a Lamborghini LM-002 is the kicker. He luckily found a home in the Car and Driver testing team that allows him to further develop his love for the automotive world and the oddities that come with it.

Seeking solutions to the EV charging queue problem

Long lines at DC fast-charging stations may become a more common occurrence as more electric vehicles hit the road.

As I was driving around New York state recently, I witnessed a problem looming in the shadows: queuing at direct-current (DC) electric vehicle fast-charging stations. And earlier this month, I stumbled upon a LinkedIn post highlighting the same budding dilemma.

Historically, the long lines peak during the holidays when DC fast-charging stations see a rise in charging sessions — especially in states such as California, where 16 percent of all new vehicle sales are electric, compared with 9 percent in other EV-leading states such as New York or Oregon and even less elsewhere. However, this queuing issue may become a more common occurrence and potentially a nightmare for drivers as more EVs hit the road.

As background, in the world of EV charging, DC fast-charging stations, also known as Level 3 charging stations, generally charge an EV from 0 to 80 percent in 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the station type and vehicle.

The way I see it, the queuing issue breaks down into three buckets:

  • Not enough charging stations
  • Getting drivers on their way
  • Managing the queue

Let’s explore each point, review what exists as a solution and suggest some alternative routes.

Not enough charging stations

Deploying more DC fast-charging stations is one simple and obvious solution to the queuing problem. fast-charging stations would lead to additional charging opportunities, which would then decrease the chance of overcrowding. As of January, 28,250 public DC fast-charging stations exist in the U.S.

That number is expected to rise rapidly as states deploy more charging stations through the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program to achieve President Joe Biden’s goal of 500,000 chargers by 2030.

Additionally, Tesla has officially committed to adding 3,500 Supercharger locations with compatible chargers for non-Tesla EVs, and it’s already deploying some chargers. These efforts work in tandem with the company’s plan to double its overall charging network by 2024.

Anthony Lambkin, Electrify America’s vice president of operations, agrees that more charging stations could help address the problem, but they aren’t the only solution.

One simple way to address the problem is through more EV charging education, especially around charging etiquette, so drivers are aware of charging best practices, including queuing. And customers who use the Electrify America app will know what stations have chargers available for better trip planning.

Getting drivers on their way

Charging providers use idle fees to discourage vehicles from idling in a spot after charging is complete. In the basic sense, an idle fee is what the provider charges a driver for the additional time they remain plugged into the charger after reaching 100 percent state-of-charge.

Tesla’s approach to idle fees only kicks in when the entire station location is at 50 percent capacity or more. Other companies also charge idle fees, but enforcement seems sporadic. For example, Out of Spec reviews tested a lack of idle fee enforcement by Electrify America and confirmed that the company was not charging fees, even though it was supposed to. When I asked Lambkin why this is happening and if it’s still ongoing, I didn’t get a clear answer: We are currently evaluating various approaches to encourage customers to move their vehicles after they have finished charging and [in a way that] doesn’t compromise the customer experience.

In addition to actually enforcing idle fees, charging providers could also increase the charging cost once a vehicle reaches the infamous 80 percent state-of-charge threshold. Once a battery hits 80 percent, the charging speed significantly reduces, which can further increase queuing issues. Adding this component would be different from how major charging companies such as Electrify America and EVgo charge for using their stations — per kilowatt-hour. However, the idea isn’t entirely off the beaten path from something like time of use rates.

But wait, what about reserved charging?

The queuing problem may worsen as more charging providers and automotive companies explore the idea of reserved charging at scale. Through this approach, a driver can reserve a charging station as they approach it to ensure it’s available for them to charge.

Once a battery hits 80%, the charging speed significantly reduces, which can further increase queuing issues.

However, I’m not entirely sure how reserving charging stations will fix EV charging queuing issues. For example, this British tabloid captures how emotions can run high as people wait to charge. Now imagine having a perfectly usable charging station just waiting in reserve mode because a driver hasn’t arrived yet. Extrapolate that out, where dozens of stations are just waiting to be used, at any given location, and it doesn’t make sense to plug in only for a short duration of time before the reserved time slot begins, and you can see some issues developing.

Managing the queue

Remember when I told you I witnessed a charging pileup firsthand? This is when that anecdote becomes relevant. As I was charging at a Tesla Supercharger station, the lot quickly reached capacity. Yet cars continued to pull into the station to wait for a charge.

The situation was stress-inducing even as an observer. I witnessed drivers parking their vehicles to face the charging EVs, often taking up one to two parking spaces in the process. Once a charging station opened up, it seemed like a mad dash in acceleration from the poorly organized queue, creating a huge safety issue for pedestrians and other drivers.

Charging providers and automotive companies, working through in-vehicle navigation systems, could dynamically push drivers to different charging locations as one approach to relieve the pressure.

Tesla’s Trip Planner already does this in some form, which has also helped the company improve fast-charging speeds by 30 percent over five years. However, clearly it’s not a perfect solution, as stories continue to pop up of Tesla drivers clogging up Supercharger locations.

Other automotive companies offer various in-vehicle navigation features that route drivers through charging stations. But in my opinion, nothing is close to Tesla. I’ve heard many stories very similar to the one here (jump to the 5:00 mark for the piece on EV charging) where the in-car GPS routed a driver to a broken charging station.

Another alternative solution is the idea of a virtual queue. Monta, an EV operating platform, offers a version of virtual queuing. But it appears the business model is geared toward businesses with workplace charging, and it feels more like a reservable EV charging station model, as discussed earlier.

In an ideal world, the EV industry adds a dynamic lever to the charging model. As you approach a full charging location, your EV (of any make) connects to the charging location and enters itself into a virtual queue, with entry to the queue dependent upon close geographical proximity. Drivers then park in an available normal parking spot, and only when prompted, proceed to plug in and charge. If a driver attempted to charge before their turn, the chargers would simply not communicate with the vehicle. This could allow a driver to be more relaxed, park their vehicle in an available parking space and wait their turn.

The EV Charging Grid Needs Work, Lots of Work

Most charging stations have non-working plugs and complex payment systems.

By Mark Vaughn Published: Feb 22, 2023

  • Studies by JD Power and Deloitte confirm what many electric-vehicle drivers already know: The EV charging system in America is woefully inadequate, clunky, and just plain doesn’t work.
  • With the numbers of EVs coming onto the market increasing every model year, something has to be done. The question is, what?
  • Standards for payment is one way the Dept. of Transportation could help.

Complaining about the EV charging network today is like standing at Kitty Hawk watching the Wright Brothers glide past and yelling, “What the heck, man? I got a 5 o’clock flight to LAX I gotta be on! What is taking you morons so LONG?”

Yes, there is technically a charging network for electric cars in place in this country and, yes, you can plug into it—some of it, anyway, sometimes. But it’s a long way from being practical and a lot of it isn’t even useable.

At least that’s based on my own firsthand anecdotal experiences and the whinings and web postings of EV-savvy friends. The EV charging network in America is not exactly in its infancy, but it’s not yet in its adolescence, either. At least anecdotally speaking.

Related Story

“Charging an EV today at public stations is a lot like the wild, wild west—anything could happen,” said friend and colleague Richard Truett of Automotive News. “Or, more frequently, nothing could happen.”

Another friend, president, and chief analyst at Auto Pacific Ed Kim, drove a “wonderful” Genesis G80 EV from Southern California to Las Vegas recently. While the car performed flawlessly, the charging network did not.

“I plugged in at my local EVgo Network 350-kW charger (which should allow the G80 to charge to 80% in 22 minutes) and went for a 50-minute run, expecting to find the car fully charged upon my return. Came back to find it had a ‘connection error’ at 18% so basically, it wasn’t charging for nearly the entire time I was gone on my run. This is one of countless times I have had problems with public DC fast-chargers.”

My own experiences on long-distance road trips that required DC fast-charging have been equally frustrating. The vast majority of my attempts at DC fast-charging have resulted in frustration, and almost half of them have yielded no charge at all.

Let me share an example: I had a Lucid Air recently—surely the pinnacle of technology in an EV for the current time. The Lucid Air can go as much as 516 miles on a charge. But I wanted to plug it in anyway. So I searched “CCS charger” on my phone and was directed to a Loop Level 3 DC charger in Manhattan Beach. I parked and started following the limited directions on the charger. Nothing worked.

I tried every different configuration I could think of, based on my interpretation of the hieroglyphics on the charging pedestal. Nothing. There was no 800 number to call, at least not listed. There was a QR code, which I scanned. That lead to a web page encouraging me to buy a Loop charger.

Eventually I was directed to download an app—a favorite requirement of most EV fast-chargers—where I found a phone number. I called, and after a long wait, spoke with a gentleman whom, quite frankly, I could not easily understand. Eventually he claimed he fixed the problem and said the unit was charging my car. Or would soon be charging my car as soon as he “reset it.”

He sent me on my way to meet friends for dinner. But 15 minutes later I got a call from another Loop rep—a very excited, ridiculously friendly voice who instructed me to return to my car, whereupon I found that it was not charging. But this new voice did something on his end and voila, it was charging! At almost a half a buck per kWh.

The above scenario is not unique to that supplier. Something like it has happened to me most of the time at most chargers. The problem is rampant capitalism—the wild west. There are many, many different companies setting up charging stations all across the country, and none of them talk to each other. Most EV drivers would like to just pull up, plug in, and pay by credit card the way you can pay for everything from gasoline to tunafish salad.

Lucid Does Not Have a Charging Network of its Own

But almost all charging companies want you to download their app, perhaps the better to have you in their permanent clutches as a lifetime customer. Problem is, you never know where you’re going to drive on any given day, so you never know which charging network will present itself at whichever outlet you pull off the freeway. My phone is full of charging apps.

Okay, so that’s anecdotal whining. Scientifically speaking, it’s also somewhere between a frustrating experience and a nightmare.

“The growth of electric-vehicle sales during the past year has been remarkable but has added stress to an already beleaguered public vehicle charging infrastructure,” read the key findings in the second annual JD Power US Electric Vehicle Experience (EVX) Public Charging Study, released in 2022. “In this growth spurt, owners in high EV volume markets like California, Texas, and Washington, for instance, are finding the charging infrastructure inadequate and plagued with non-functioning stations.”

See? I’m not crazy. And the situation may be getting worse.

“Despite (the fact) that more public charging stations are in operation than ever before, customer satisfaction with public Level 2 charging declined from last year, dropping to 633 (on a 1000-point scale) from 643 in 2021, while satisfaction with the speedier DC (direct current) fast-charger segment remains flat at 674,” the study found. “This lack of progress points to the need for improvement as EVs gain wider consumer acceptance because the shortage of public charging availability is the number one reason vehicle shoppers reject EVs.”

Among users who were able to connect, Tesla owners were the happiest, according to JD Power, with the Tesla Supercharger network the most satisfying of all Level 3 DC fast-chargers, scoring 739 points out of 1000. Tesla also led the Level 2 charging networks with a 680 score.

electric, vehicle, charging, overview

Related Story

electric, vehicle, charging, overview

While you need public charging for road trips, the 2023 Global Automotive Consumer Study by Deloitte found that 77% of US EV buyers planned to avoid the hassle and simply charge at home. But when they were on the road, 56% of American EV drivers preferred to pay by credit card, with just 25% preferring to pay using a smartphone app.

Currently there are almost 150,000 public chargers across the country, grouped into over 50,000 public charging stations. Almost a third of them are in California, where most of the electric cars park. If you include plug-in hybrids in the tally, there are somewhere around 2.5 million electrified vehicles in the US and rising. With almost every carmaker in the world well on its way to total electrification, the charging network is in dire need of improvement.

What’s the answer? How about if the US Dept. of Transportation makes some kind of universally acceptable payment—perhaps the credit cards already in every wallet in America? Also, increased competition will lower the price of electricity. Anecdotally speaking, I seem to see 0.48 cents per kWh at DC fast-charging stations I visit here in LA. That is surely driving owners to charge at home where costs are lower. But for the most part, federal oversight could force the charging network in America to improve with some simple requirements that will make charging—and paying for it—more easily accessible to all.

When charging your EV at DC fast-chargers, how much are you paying per kWh, and where? Please comment below.

Mark Vaughn grew up in a Ford family and spent many hours holding a trouble light over a straight-six miraculously fed by a single-barrel carburetor while his father cursed Ford, all its products and everyone who ever worked there. This was his introduction to objective automotive criticism. He started writing for City News Service in Los Angeles, then moved to Europe and became editor of a car magazine called, creatively, Auto. He decided Auto should cover Formula 1, sports prototypes and touring cars—no one stopped him! From there he interviewed with Autoweek at the 1989 Frankfurt motor show and has been with us ever since.

The EV Charging Grid Needs Work, Lots of Work

Most charging stations have non-working plugs and complex payment systems.

By Mark Vaughn Published: Feb 22, 2023

  • Studies by JD Power and Deloitte confirm what many electric-vehicle drivers already know: The EV charging system in America is woefully inadequate, clunky, and just plain doesn’t work.
  • With the numbers of EVs coming onto the market increasing every model year, something has to be done. The question is, what?
  • Standards for payment is one way the Dept. of Transportation could help.

Complaining about the EV charging network today is like standing at Kitty Hawk watching the Wright Brothers glide past and yelling, “What the heck, man? I got a 5 o’clock flight to LAX I gotta be on! What is taking you morons so LONG?”

Yes, there is technically a charging network for electric cars in place in this country and, yes, you can plug into it—some of it, anyway, sometimes. But it’s a long way from being practical and a lot of it isn’t even useable.

At least that’s based on my own firsthand anecdotal experiences and the whinings and web postings of EV-savvy friends. The EV charging network in America is not exactly in its infancy, but it’s not yet in its adolescence, either. At least anecdotally speaking.

Related Story

“Charging an EV today at public stations is a lot like the wild, wild west—anything could happen,” said friend and colleague Richard Truett of Automotive News. “Or, more frequently, nothing could happen.”

Another friend, president, and chief analyst at Auto Pacific Ed Kim, drove a “wonderful” Genesis G80 EV from Southern California to Las Vegas recently. While the car performed flawlessly, the charging network did not.

“I plugged in at my local EVgo Network 350-kW charger (which should allow the G80 to charge to 80% in 22 minutes) and went for a 50-minute run, expecting to find the car fully charged upon my return. Came back to find it had a ‘connection error’ at 18% so basically, it wasn’t charging for nearly the entire time I was gone on my run. This is one of countless times I have had problems with public DC fast-chargers.”

My own experiences on long-distance road trips that required DC fast-charging have been equally frustrating. The vast majority of my attempts at DC fast-charging have resulted in frustration, and almost half of them have yielded no charge at all.

Let me share an example: I had a Lucid Air recently—surely the pinnacle of technology in an EV for the current time. The Lucid Air can go as much as 516 miles on a charge. But I wanted to plug it in anyway. So I searched “CCS charger” on my phone and was directed to a Loop Level 3 DC charger in Manhattan Beach. I parked and started following the limited directions on the charger. Nothing worked.

I tried every different configuration I could think of, based on my interpretation of the hieroglyphics on the charging pedestal. Nothing. There was no 800 number to call, at least not listed. There was a QR code, which I scanned. That lead to a web page encouraging me to buy a Loop charger.

Eventually I was directed to download an app—a favorite requirement of most EV fast-chargers—where I found a phone number. I called, and after a long wait, spoke with a gentleman whom, quite frankly, I could not easily understand. Eventually he claimed he fixed the problem and said the unit was charging my car. Or would soon be charging my car as soon as he “reset it.”

He sent me on my way to meet friends for dinner. But 15 minutes later I got a call from another Loop rep—a very excited, ridiculously friendly voice who instructed me to return to my car, whereupon I found that it was not charging. But this new voice did something on his end and voila, it was charging! At almost a half a buck per kWh.

The above scenario is not unique to that supplier. Something like it has happened to me most of the time at most chargers. The problem is rampant capitalism—the wild west. There are many, many different companies setting up charging stations all across the country, and none of them talk to each other. Most EV drivers would like to just pull up, plug in, and pay by credit card the way you can pay for everything from gasoline to tunafish salad.

Lucid Does Not Have a Charging Network of its Own

But almost all charging companies want you to download their app, perhaps the better to have you in their permanent clutches as a lifetime customer. Problem is, you never know where you’re going to drive on any given day, so you never know which charging network will present itself at whichever outlet you pull off the freeway. My phone is full of charging apps.

Okay, so that’s anecdotal whining. Scientifically speaking, it’s also somewhere between a frustrating experience and a nightmare.

“The growth of electric-vehicle sales during the past year has been remarkable but has added stress to an already beleaguered public vehicle charging infrastructure,” read the key findings in the second annual JD Power US Electric Vehicle Experience (EVX) Public Charging Study, released in 2022. “In this growth spurt, owners in high EV volume markets like California, Texas, and Washington, for instance, are finding the charging infrastructure inadequate and plagued with non-functioning stations.”

See? I’m not crazy. And the situation may be getting worse.

“Despite (the fact) that more public charging stations are in operation than ever before, customer satisfaction with public Level 2 charging declined from last year, dropping to 633 (on a 1000-point scale) from 643 in 2021, while satisfaction with the speedier DC (direct current) fast-charger segment remains flat at 674,” the study found. “This lack of progress points to the need for improvement as EVs gain wider consumer acceptance because the shortage of public charging availability is the number one reason vehicle shoppers reject EVs.”

Among users who were able to connect, Tesla owners were the happiest, according to JD Power, with the Tesla Supercharger network the most satisfying of all Level 3 DC fast-chargers, scoring 739 points out of 1000. Tesla also led the Level 2 charging networks with a 680 score.

Related Story

While you need public charging for road trips, the 2023 Global Automotive Consumer Study by Deloitte found that 77% of US EV buyers planned to avoid the hassle and simply charge at home. But when they were on the road, 56% of American EV drivers preferred to pay by credit card, with just 25% preferring to pay using a smartphone app.

What’s the answer? How about if the US Dept. of Transportation makes some kind of universally acceptable payment—perhaps the credit cards already in every wallet in America? Also, increased competition will lower the price of electricity. Anecdotally speaking, I seem to see 0.48 cents per kWh at DC fast-charging stations I visit here in LA. That is surely driving owners to charge at home where costs are lower. But for the most part, federal oversight could force the charging network in America to improve with some simple requirements that will make charging—and paying for it—more easily accessible to all.

When charging your EV at DC fast-chargers, how much are you paying per kWh, and where? Please comment below.

Mark Vaughn grew up in a Ford family and spent many hours holding a trouble light over a straight-six miraculously fed by a single-barrel carburetor while his father cursed Ford, all its products and everyone who ever worked there. This was his introduction to objective automotive criticism. He started writing for City News Service in Los Angeles, then moved to Europe and became editor of a car magazine called, creatively, Auto. He decided Auto should cover Formula 1, sports prototypes and touring cars—no one stopped him! From there he interviewed with Autoweek at the 1989 Frankfurt motor show and has been with us ever since.

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