Should Chevy Volt drivers use public charging?
Before everyone goes ballistic, here’s a couple things: 1) I drive a Chevy Volt, as does my wife and daughter, and 2) I used “Volt” to get you to click on this story (sneaky, huh?).
A tipping point is coming in transportation. Those of us who have acquired a plug-in hybrid or EV are, for the most part, eager to see these vehicle flourish. However, in the near-term, there will be a very tight supply of charging stations and even worse than that, chargers are going up in the wrong places. Combined, these two factors could dampen enthusiasm for what should be a great time for drivers.
First, the demand: The Chevy Bolt EV just had the best first 7 months of sales for any plug-in vehicle. Ever. It even outsold the first 7 months of the original Prius, while only being available in a few states. The Tesla Model 3 has over 400,00 deposits on orders. Of course, Tesla has its own charger network but that doesn’t make it immune to charger real estate availability. Top that off with many, many manufacturers publicly stating they are entering the market and you’ve got supply/demand issues.
Secondly the supply: chargers, other that Tesla “destination” chargers, are going up in major metropolitan areas. I understand the thinking: go where the customer base is located.
However, even EVs with 200+ mile range will be unable to get from some major cities to others, without stopping overnight. This will be a major issue, in the eyes of those opposed to plug-in vehicles.
Expect them to really push this limitation. Within metropolitan areas, chargers are often found in the parking lots of restaurants, drug stores, malls and mass transit parking lots. I would not want to spends multiple hours at any of these locations. What aren’t they going up at movie theaters? Schools? Libraries? Sports venues? In other words, places we’d usually spends several hours at a time? Finally, many charging vendors are limiting the time an vehicle can be plugged in, especially to DC fast charging stations, as a way to be more fair. However, this tactic can further limit the effective range of an EV.
Due to this limited supply of public charging locations, different classes of plug-in vehicle owners, who should be natural allies, are fighting. I’ve heard EV drivers say, “You shouldn’t charge a Volt here. You could be preventing someone from making it home tonight!” I’ve heard Volt drivers say, “They chose to get an EV. I shouldn’t have to use gasoline, due to their short-sightedness!” Both side have a point, but does that move the revolution forward?
It’s bad enough that we have drivers of gasoline-powered vehicles ignoring the “charging only” signs. There are plug-in vehicle drivers who take these spots, whether they’re charging or not, because they usually are prime parking spots. This is because it’s a less expensive electric run, the closer the charger is to the building. Then, of course, we probably have all left our cars plugged in, after the batteries were fully recharged.
We all have to think this through a little more clearly. Those of us driving plug-in hybrids: A3 e-trons, i3s (with REX), i8s, 330es, 740es, Pacificas, Karmas, C-Maxs, Fusion Energis, ELRs, Optimas, Prius Primes, Volts and many others, all have a vested interest in the success of all plug-in vehicles. We all want to eventually drive an EV, as soon with sufficient range for our comfort comes along. Those of us charging at public chargers, although we could continue on gasoline, obviously do so because we want an EV experience.
Let’s be a little more cognizant of the fact that the plug-in market is still in its infancy. It could collapse and there are powerful forces rallying to cause just that.
Think it through. Do you need to charge or just want to charge? Make your decisions based on that.