Electrify America is imagining the EV charging experience of the future, and it looks more like an upscale lounge for pampered passengers at the airport than the typical “gas and go” emporiums where we fill our tanks, grab a prepackaged snack, and get back behind the wheel in 3 minutes flat. Electrify America calls its new concept “human-centered,” and it may mark a turning point in how EV charging is done away from home.
Electrify America plans to build several of its “human-centered” charging plazas in Santa Barbara, San Francisco, San Diego, and Beverly Hills in the next few years. Manhattan and Brooklyn will also get a few of these advanced charging facilities.
According to a press release, Electrify America aims to make charging as pleasant and seamless as possible. The new plazas will emphasize comfort, security, and amenities. The company says the goal is to create “a more inviting transition to an electric vehicle lifestyle from traditional gas station. These new designs will help elevate the charging experience for our customers, building on the foundation of our ultra-fast and reliable coast-to-coast network.”
Most notable in the changes from the company’s current plazas is the inclusion of awnings covered in solar panels, which shelter customers from the sun and inclement weather while also supplying power for the charging equipment. The company says it is in the process of adding solar awnings at 100 charging stations across the country. It already has solar canopies at its flagship charging stations in Baker and Santa Clara, California.
Customer lounges at the redesigned charging stations will feature dedicated event spaces. On-site cameras and additional lighting will help provide a sense of security for those EV owners charging at night. Those near shopping centers may offer valet charging and curbside delivery options.
Electrify America is also introducing a redesigned EV charger with a slimmer profile and newly simplified controls. The ultra-fast chargers will offer between 150 and 350 kilowatts of charging power. They are nearly 8 feet tall and feature recessed screens to reduce glare from the sun.
The company says it will being installing onsite battery storage systems at 150 charging locations across the country in an effort to help manage the energy load to the grid and capture excess solar energy whenever possible. “The momentum moving us closer to an electric transportation system is accelerating with consumers finding more and more choices of EVs from virtually every manufacturer,” CEO Giovanni Palazzo says.
Concierge charging services are coming in places like Norway and the UK, where Gridserve is building attractive facilities that allow EV drivers to recharge their cars in comfort. Electrify America wants to bring that experience to the United States, and not a moment too soon. Reports of dirty and/or broken chargers abound on the internet. People who spend $112,000 for a Hummer or a Lucid Air may not be thrilled at the idea of shopping at Walmart while they recharge their batteries.
For the time being, charging during road trips is a 30-minute affair — or more. People want a place they know they can be comfortable and safe while they wait. Clever retailer will soon discover there are business opportunities associated with serving the needs of EV drivers who will be stationary for a half hour or so, and no, that does not mean grabbing a bag of Doritos. Electric car owners have money to spend. It shouldn’t take a marketing genius to see the possibilities associated with upscale charging plazas.
Anything that makes traveling in an electric car more pleasant is welcome news. With luck, other charging networks (yes, that includes you, Tesla) will see the benefits of upgrading the charging experience for their customers and follow Electrify America’s lead.
Talking around the cucumber-infused water cooler next to the CleanTechnica rooftop pool, we collected thoughts from insightful CleanTechnica editor Jo Borras on the topic and it seemed worth sharing. “As far as I’m concerned, if the charging stations are half as nice as these, then I’ll be happy to stop for an hour or two on a long trip, even though you really don’t have to do that kind of thing anymore,” he said. “That’s just me, though — but I’m a sucker for anything ‘premium’ these days (some sciatic nerve pain will do that to you)”