Inside EVs Article Illustrates Why Affordable Plug-in Hybrids Make More Sense Than BEVs
The public electric vehicle charger infrastructure in America is a mess. Don't take our word for it. Read perhaps the most well-researched, best-written story on the subject by an early adopter, EV-advocate, and EV expert, Tom Molohgney. Our take-away after reading this amazing deep-dive is that being iced-out of charging spots is the least of anyone's concern who drives an affordable battery-electric vehicle. Aside from the fact that there are too few chargers in too few spaces and many are often occupied by ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles, here is our take-away from Tom's story:
- The credit card readers are rubbish and often don't work
- The "Fast-charge" networks are still slow compared to any corner gas pump (22 minutes to get 75% charge)
- The charging standards are still in upheaval and there is no universal fast-charger standard (CHAdeMO is a failure and hated by the charger companies)
- The supply chain to charger companies is immature and unreliable (Tom sees it shrinking in 2020)
Why in the world would anyone living in an apartment, condo, or multifamily with no home charger ever buy a battery-electric vehicle (battery-only) knowing that the charger network is a complete mess? Particularly when they can go green and drive a hybrid? The Prius gas-only hybrid still outsells the Leaf, Bolt, Niro EV, i3 and Clarity EV combined. That is no accident.
Aside from the apartment dwellers without access to a home charger, why would a homeowner with a charger at home ever bother to put themselves in a position where they needed to rely on this network? Instead of buying a battery-only vehicle, why not simply buy a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) and use an inexpensive home charger to top off the limited battery while sleeping? If a functioning, available, public charger presents itself, great. Charge up. Why not? Well, maybe one reason not to is that some suffering BEV owner may need that spot more than you do since they are a slave to the cord and you are not, having the ability to drive home as a hybrid. Don't be shocked to hear this, but BEV owners on their forums think PHEVs are the enemy. "They take our spots!" "They still use gas!"
Tom's story highlights some of the experiences I have had trying to break into the public charger world. I test EVs regularly and have tried (usually in vain) to use the Boston Metro Area public charger network. Have I charged EVs on the road? Sure. That image at the top of the page is my test Outlander PHEV parked next to an idiot in a Honda Odyssey taking up one of the two available public chargers on the MIT campus. That is called being "iced-out" of a spot. A selfish person in a gas-only car takes up a charger slot so they can park their vehicle. I lucked out. I was able to roust a live-parked ICE car out of the spot I took. That's fun. Being in a conflict with a person over a "special" parking space. While you have an 8-year old daughter in the back seat.
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In addition to being iced-out or arriving at my destination to find that the charger was occupied by EVs charging for hours on end (I have watched spots off and on while at my destination and seen the same vehicles remain on the charger for many hours at a time) I have also found that trying to use a credit card is almost always useless. One needs to use apps to pay and charge. That's a joy. Adding more apps to a phone with a gazillion of them. So you can pay at a specific-brand charger. Should you stumble upon on an open bay. Made by that specific brand of charger.
Until I read Tom's story I felt that my own experiences were simply my being lazy. Maybe I should have looked harder for spots. Maybe I should plan my trip and my day around driving to a charger in hopes it will be open when I arrive and then try to fit my work and free time around that. Stepping back from those rediculous thoughts after reading Tom's story, I feel as if my experiences finding chargers difficult to use are not just selfishness on my part but the reality for others as well.
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles like the new RAV4 Prime and Ford Escape PHEV will enable family owners to drive an affordable, practical EV without all the hassles associated with public charging. They can be charged at home with no expensive wiring or special equipment and these vehicles and others like them will get most commuters to work and back without the need to use any gasoline. They can then take that same crossover on a journey anyplace they wish never needing to worry about charging on that road trip. Those who live in cities can own a PHEV like the top-selling Prius Prime (which outsells every comparably-priced BEV) and never need to worry they won't find an available charging spot.
If you think that "lack of funding support" for EVs is the reason the public charger situation is still a mess, read Tom's words: "...simply throwing a ton of money at a problem doesn't mean you'll get a favorable result, as witnessed by Ecotality's failure a decade ago when they received over $135 million in grants and economic stimulus funding to install public EV charging infrastructure. For those that remember the original Blink network (it has since been taken over by Car Charging Group), you may remember how unreliable the equipment was and how poorly their customer service performed. The bottom line is you can have all the money in the world and still fail to achieve your goal without the right people and proper planning."
Modern EVs in America have been on sale since 2010. A decade. And yet, the public charger infrastructure is still spotty at best and mess at worst depending upon where you live. Like we say, don't take our word for it.
John Goreham is a life-long car nut and recovering engineer. John's focus areas are technology, safety, and green vehicles. In the 1990s, he was part of a team that built a solar-electric vehicle from scratch. His was the role of battery thermal control designer. For 20 years he applied his engineering and sales talents in the high tech world and published numerous articles in technical journals such as Chemical Processing Magazine. In 2008 he retired from that career and dedicated himself to chasing his dream of being an auto writer. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and connect with him at Linkedin.