Why America’s EV Chargers Keep Breaking

Politico dives into a problem that may plague EV adoption.

April 13, 2023

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—“Imagine living in a world where the gas station has trouble providing gasoline.” Politico asks that question in a long feature story on the problem of broken EV chargers. “If the consumer wants a helping hand, too bad. In this world, the gas station has no human, and the only option is a 1-800 number. The gas pumps are alone in the middle of a big parking lot.”

As awful as that sounds, it’s the situation facing many drivers of electric vehicles, the site reports. And the many problems with EV chargers are proving difficult to fix.

 “People feeling that it’s a risk to buy an EV because the fast-charging infrastructure stinks is going to slow down EV adoption,” said Bill Ferro, a software expert and founder of EVSession, an EV charger analytics firm.

The site says that wire and batteries are more complex that gas station pumps, and that problems include blank screens, broken plugs, payment malfunctions, sessions that stop without warning and inconsistent electric current.

In 2022, researchers from Cornell University visited every fast charger in the San Francisco area and found that only 72.5% were functional. Likewise, a J.D. Power study found that one in five visits to a public charger ended without a charge happening.

Home charging and slow charging generally works well, but fast chargers are where the problem is. Tesla’s Superchargers are an exception. But non-Tesla networks suffer from a lack of clarity in terms of who is in charge. “The public charging system has a lot more actors. They include a panoply of automakers, charging network operators, route-finding tools and now the government,” Politico reports.

“I see this is a problem for the next five years,” said Ferro. “Either Tesla will take over the entire charging network of the U.S., or everyone else will get their act together, or a little bit of both.”