Another Bump in the EV Road: Broken Chargers

One-third of EV owners are at least moderately concerned about broken chargers.

August 17, 2022

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Some electric vehicle owners are facing a dilemma: chargers that are broken, reports the New York Times. A recent study by Cool the Earth, an environmental nonprofit, in California found that about a quarter of the public charging outlets in the San Francisco Bay Area, a place teaming with EVs, were out of order. The most common problem was that the chargers could not accept a payment of initiate a charge.

The Times reports that broken chargers can have problems including screens not working, software issues and some ceasing to work midcharge. Charging insecurities have some gasoline-powered vehicle drivers question whether to transition to EVs.

“Often, those fast chargers have real maintenance issues,” Ethan Zuckerman, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who has owned a Chevrolet Bolt for several years, told the Times. “When they do, you very quickly find yourself in pretty dire straits.”

Most EV owners charge up at home, so public chargers are used far less than gas-powered vehicle owners use fuel pumps. However, with vehicle makers stepping up EV production, there will be more and more EV owners who won’t be able to charge at home, and studies have shown that the top EV-ownership concern is lack of available chargers.

A poll by Plug-In America showed that one-third of EV owners are at least moderately concerned about broken chargers. To help remedy broken chargers, Ford has been sending out “charge angels” to test EV charging networks the company partners with.

“If we want to see EV adoption continue to ramp up, as I do, we need to solve this problem,” Joel Levin, the executive director of Plug In America, told the Times.

Electrify America disputes the findings of the Cool the Earth study, while EVgo said it could not replicate the study’s findings. EVgo and Electrify America told the Times that they take reliability seriously and have employees monitor their chargers from centralized control rooms and can quickly send technicians to fix problems.

“These are out in the wild by themselves,” said Rob Barrosa, a senior director of sales, business development and marketing at Electrify America. “You just can’t set it and forget it.”

In February, the White House released a plan to fund electric vehicle charging infrastructure, focusing on interstate highways first, and then rural areas at a later date. The administration will award nearly $5 billion over five years to states so they can build EV chargers along highway corridors. Additionally, the recently signed Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 includes incentives for businesses and individuals purchasing electric-vehicle chargers.

The NACS government relations team detailed the Alternative Fuel Refueling Property Tax Credit and how it impacts convenience-store retailers, along with other provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 that have an impact on retailers.

The NACS EV Charging Calculator allows retailers to assess the cost and profitability of offering EV chargers at their sites. The calculator focuses on what retailer utility costs associated with EV recharging are and what the corresponding revenue must be to recover those costs after allowing for potential ancillary in-store visits and purchase profitability.