Know where the nearest gas station is? Of course you do. So does your phone (i.e., Google). If you’re on a road trip and need to fill up your tank, no problem: You’ll see signs every few miles for upcoming rest stops, all of which have gas stations. Same goes when you’re driving a rental in a foreign country. The phrase “I can’t get gas” is rarely (if ever) uttered in modern civilization.
But how about a charge for your electric car? Houston — let’s get Detroit, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn on the radio, too — now we have a problem. There are many reasons that electric vehicles have not taken off yet in America, but this issue is at the heart of every one.
After all, considering most U.S. drivers don’t crack 50 miles in a day of driving, range anxiety is more charge anxiety than anything else. If there were a charging station near your job and you could leave home and work with 80 miles of range every day, there’d be a lot more EV drivers.
Here’s the thing: there are many more chargers than people know about. They don’t get the fancy, state-sponsored signs our friends operating gas stations do, but they’re there if you look hard enough. For the situation to change, we would have to see stuff like this change. Then you’d have more people feeling comfortable buying a plug-in. (Credit President Obama for giving it a shot with his massive EV initiative.)
Here are the five lingering EV charging problems that have to be fixed.
1. The information gap
There is nothing complicated about opening the door to your gas tank and inserting the nozzle. Plugging in an EV is not terribly complicated, either, but the devil is in the details. For example, you could go to four different public chargers and get four different charging speeds in the same day. One plug could give you three miles an hour; another could give you 13 miles an hour; a third could give you 27 miles an hour; and a fourth could give you 180 miles in 30 minutes.
No matter what happens at a gas station, you know it only takes five minutes to fill up your tank once you get going. Charging takes some planning. Again, it’s not rocket science, but you have to know the specifics of the car you are driving and be aware of a station’s capability when you’re in public. You also have to know a charger is there in the first place.
The same hold for home chargers. You can install a Level 2 charger in your home that can recharge your battery in four hours, and the cost is reasonable ($500 to $600 in most cases). Most people don’t have the time or inclination to figure these things out, and there isn’t much public outreach in place to change the situation.