There’s something that’s really starting to drive me insane on Plugshare. For those not in the know, Plugshare is a place where people used to share the location of EV chargers they were willing to share with other EV drivers. But, as public charging infrastructure became a thing, it became more of a place where people list public charging stations, review them, and even do some sleuthing to share future station locations. All in all, I’d say it’s an app that every EV driver should have on their phones.
But, like any app that people use and share information with each other, individual personalities will shine through. And, it appears that some of the people using it are having a perpetual panic attack.
Let’s look at this Electrify America station in San Antonio for example. Anybody looking for a place to charge where the stars at night are big and bright will pretty quickly see that that particular station is down right now. It doesn’t have the wrench icon, but hover over it or tap on it and you’ll see it has a rating of 4.1 out of 10, which screams “don’t depend on this station” to any reasonable observer.
Click on the station, and you find this message from Electrify America at the top:
“Starting Monday, November 7, 2022, the chargers at this location will be temporarily unavailable for use, as we are working on removing equipment and installing new chargers. Thank you for your patience as we work to make these upgrades as quickly as possible.
We will ensure location availability is updated on our app and PlugShare when the chargers are back online. For real time charger status, please use the Electrify America app. If you have questions, please contact our Customer Support team at 1-833-632-2778.”
Seems pretty self-explanatory, right? It’s getting new chargers and the station is not a good place to go if you’re wanting a charge. But, that doesn’t stop people from showing up to give it some real gems in the review section.
“They just took out the chargers. Like we pulled up to charge and they are GONE.”
“Permanently Closed. Not in service.”
I get that unexpectedly finding a closed up charging station sucks. I’m not going to mock people for hardship. But, can we at least look at the top of the page first before saying the place is closed forever? Or, can we not act like they’re “GONE” when they’re definitely going to be replaced in the near future? Or, better yet, if the app is valuable, why not consult it before heading out and check on the stations along your route to see if any of them are going to be down soon? From what I could see, Electrify America gave notice at least four days in advance.
Sadly, this isn’t the only station I’ve seen this at. Up the road in Waco, they started the upgrade process about a week later. The message at the top of the Plugshare page for the site was basically the same as the one in San Antonio, but with the later date (also announced four days in advance). But, this is what I saw on the station reviews:
“Permanently closed. All the chargers are being torn down. Go to the element hotel – these are now the only chargers available between Dallas and Austin since EA decided to a close all 7 of their chargers at once 😑”
“Chargers have been removed. Do not plan to charge here any time soon. Area is fenced off.”
Once again, there’s always at least one guy who doesn’t know that the place isn’t “permanently closed,” even though it says right above his comment that it’s down temporarily. There’s also the “do not plan to charge here any time soon” when the station is supposed to be down for weeks at most.
Unlike the San Antonio station, the Waco station really is in the middle of a charging desert, so I won’t make fun of anybody for complaining (especially the guy who had to sit in his car in the cold at an L2 station for five hours). But, let’s not exaggerate things and frighten away potential EV owners.
At the same time, though, I do have to admit that Twitter has a lot more drama. While the people on Plugshare only exaggerated how long the thing would be closed, we had this guy who claimed he was getting rid of his EV:
This is the final straw. I'm trading my EV for a PHEV until this improves. Had to cancel my plans of spending Thanksgiving in Dallas because of @ElectrifyAm. Love my Ioniq 5. Hate the infrastructure. @itskyleconner @tommolog @brandenflasch pic.twitter.com/W92XqrFULo
— PayDBoardMan (@PayDBoardMan) November 22, 2022
In this case, the problem was both exaggerated and misunderstood on a deeper level. Several people tried to tell him that there’s a slower CCS station at a local Kia dealer that’s far better than nothing. I fired up A Better Routeplanner and figured out that at worst, he was in for a one-hour stop at a Level 2 station if he topped up at the station before it. Or, he could lower his speed (settle in behind a semi-truck) and make the trip without stopping in Waco.
I Don’t Want To Let Electrify America Off The Hook, Though
While I’m annoyed at the people who exaggerate and act like drama queens on Plugshare (and potentially scare away new EV owners), I don’t want to come away sounding like I don’t care about the people who went through trouble because of the way EA handled their station upgrades. I think the way they’re doing this stinks.
While it’s not Electrify America’s fault that there aren’t other DCFC stations nearby, it would still be great for it to do something to make these station upgrades less painful for people who depend on them right now.
One possible solution would be to do what Tesla has done on occasion and bring in some temporary charging stations. Will having a trailer with a diesel generator (to avoid permitting) give some of the less intelligent citizens of Waco some funny pictures for Facebook? Sure. But they’re probably not going to ever give EVs a chance, and the customers need help more than they do.
Or, maybe they could change out one or two stalls at a time. I don’t know enough about how the “behind the fence” parts of Electrify America stations work, but it seems like it could be a better approach if at all possible. If not, maybe the upgrades could wait until there are other stations in an area, so that the total outage wouldn’t mess people up so badly.
Putting people in a bad spot, even if they should have known better and checked ahead, should be avoided if at all possible.
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