J.D. Power loves to study things and give out awards. That’s what it does. Sensing a new opportunity to expand its brand, the company has teamed up with PlugShare to find out just how satisfied electric car owners are with their charging experience while away from home. The result shows that drivers are happiest with the Tesla Supercharger network, but even there, there is room for improvement.
The study looks at Level 2 (AC) charging and Level 3 (DC) charging networks. There are 1000 points on offer in both categories. In the Level 2 category, the Tesla Destination charger network led the rest of the pack with 689 points. Blink came in last with 535 points. For Level 3, Tesla again topped all others with 733 points. EVgo was last with 592 points.
The study asked 6,647 battery electric and plug-in hybrid owners to rate their charging experience in 10 categories — ease of charging, speed of charging, cost of charging, ease of payment, ease of finding a location, convenience of a location, availability of things to do while charging, how safe they feel at a location, availability of chargers, and cleanliness of this location.
“Public charging infrastructure is a key component in the overall adoption of electric vehicles by the broad population,” says Brent Gruber, senior director of global automotive at J.D. Power. “Unfortunately, the availability of public charging is the least satisfying aspect of owning an EV. Owners are reasonably happy in situations where public charging is free, doesn’t require a wait and the location offers other things to do — but that represents a best case scenario. The industry needs to make significant investment in public charging to assure a level of convenience and satisfaction that will lure potentially skeptical consumers to EVs.”
That level of investment is precisely what the latest infrastructure bill to pass Congress will help provide. It may have been the catalyst for Tesla’s decision to open its Supercharger network to all drivers, because the funds will only be available to networks that do not limit access to just drivers of a single brand of automobile. Not that Tesla hasn’t been expanding aggressively lately. In the past 12 months or so it has increased the number of chargers available to its owners by nearly 50%.
Cost Is An Issue
J.D. Power states, “Though their satisfaction with the cost of charging trails their overall satisfaction by a large margin, satisfaction is much higher among BEV owners with access to free public charging. Greater satisfaction with charging costs filters through many other aspects of the experience.
“Public charging satisfaction among owners utilizing free DC fast charging is 706, yet when owners must pay for their fast-charging session, satisfaction declines to 673. The impact of cost on Level 2 charging is more pronounced, as satisfaction with free charging is 668 but declines to 586 when payment is required. Free charging, either offered through manufacturer incentives or as a result of a charge point operator’s business model, presents a significant advantage in the public charging experience.”
This is a little disappointing. People expect to charge for free when away from home? Or maybe it means they are just more likely to notice deficiencies in safety, convenience, and cleanliness when it’s on their dime. Here is an instructive experience by a reddit user:
“I’m currently on a family road trip in my 2020 Kia eNiro. I didn’t want to stop, but we wanted snacks and thought it couldn’t hurt to get some extra electrons. I don’t have a card so I called the number. They took my info and turned on the charger, and I stupidly thought nothing of it.
“A few minutes later though, I started to wonder about what they were going to charge me so I checked my account. I found a $50 charge and a $20 charge (not cleared yet)! Did anyone else experience this?”
Several people commented that the $50 assessment was likely similar to the amount many credit card companies apply when you pay for gas. It’s there to guarantee payment and goes away once the transaction is completed and the funds clear. But even it that is true, $20 for 16 kWh is a hefty tariff to pay. For that kind of money, you would expect maybe a free cocktail and hor d’oeuvres while charging. Plug and charge systems that instantly recognize you and your car as soon as you plug in will go a long way toward resolving many of these niggling hassles that make the charging experience less than ideal.
The thought of charging while away from home makes a lot of people nervous, and nervous people don’t help more the EV revolution forward. J.D. Power says the two most-frequent problems drivers experience are chargers that are out of service (58%) and no charger available/too long to wait (14%). No less a personage than Herbert Diess, CEO of Volkswagen, commented on both during his recent road trip to Italy in an ID.3.
“Building a better infrastructure starts with more collaboration among automakers, charge point operators, site locations, utilities and government at all levels,” Gruber says. “Each type of charger has its place in the EV public charging eco-system — whether its Level 2 for local drives or fast charging while on road trips. One thing is clear: the more chargers that can be deployed, the better.”
Amen to that.