There’s a huge problem in the developing EV industry: EV owners driving off the lot knowing almost nothing about EVs. I know this is a topic I’ve covered several times before, but it’s pretty clear that few of the dealers are listening, so we need to go over this again. Want some proof that this is important? Let’s see what comes up when we search for “Bolt 350 kW” on Twitter:
Ennis, TX – EA station – stall 4 with a perfect charge at 192kW @RateYourCharge
Averaged $.097/kW with per minute charging.
Obligatory photo of a bolt pulling 49kW for 32 mins on a 350 pic.twitter.com/sZtgIBH4ho
— Colin (@colincalvert) February 5, 2023
Or, let’s look at this new one:
Bolt on the 350kW with two 100kW spaces open. Obviously an open install so doesn’t matter but choosing the right station for your car can greatly increase station efficiency during peak times pic.twitter.com/WhYTZxY5Sc
— Kyle Conner (@itskyleconner) February 24, 2023
This Is A Good Proxy For Measuring EV Education
For those unfamiliar, the problem here is that a Bolt or a Bolt EUV can charge at about 55 kW maximum, and it’s not uncommon for them to pull in a few kilowatts less even at peak. Then, like all EVs, they taper their speed down to protect the battery after 50-60%, slowing to around 20 kW by the time the battery is full. Personally, this lower charging speed doesn’t bother me because I used to own a Nissan LEAF that would overheat, but compared to many other EVs, it’s pretty slow at the station.
So, when I pull my Bolt EAV into an Electrify America station, I try to look at the signs on the stations and choose accordingly. Many EA stations have both 150 kW stations and 350 kW stations, with some having slower options. Basically all of these options are faster than my car, so there’s no benefit for me if I choose a 350 kW stall. I’m still going to be pulling 55 kW at most.
But, there are cars that would get a lot of good out of a 350 kW stall. If one of these faster charging EVs are able to charge at their maximum speed, they’ll be in and out of the station faster, leaving slots open for other cars and making the whole thing more efficient and less frustrating. But, if I’m stupid and take the 350 kW spot, they’ll be at the station longer because their car couldn’t reach its full charging speed potential.
It’s a pretty simple concept, and probably a good test to see how knowledgeable an EV owner is about their EV. Dealers are clearly not doing their job because we’re constantly seeing new EV owners do stuff like this, and worse.
So, I’m going to keep hammering on this issue until I quit seeing complaints about new EV owners doing dumb things like parking a Bolt at a 350 kW stall.
My Chevy Salesman Was One Of These Owners
When I bought my Bolt, I was actually treated fairly by the dealer I went to. I couldn’t go with the closest dealer because they kept trying to rip me off, but in the next town there was a dealer who actually wanted to sell me a Bolt EUV (which I’ve renamed the EAV). There wasn’t any ridiculous markup, paperwork swap scams, or anything like that. The salesman and the F&I guy also worked hard to get me a decent interest rate despite having credit that was borderline good/fair at the time. The salesman even drove a Bolt EUV himself, so it seemed like they were a pretty good EV dealership.
But, then the salesmen made a small mistake that showed me that he didn’t know a lot about EVs. Like I said, he’s a good and honest guy, but he told me that the west side of El Paso had a rapid charger for CCS cars, something that would have been news to me. It turned out that there was no such beast, and that he was talking about a Level 2 ChargePoint station. This was certainly faster than the Level 1 charging he was doing at home, but definitely wouldn’t be considered fast by normal standards.
No offense of any kind is intended here, so if you figure out which dealer I’m talking about, don’t go bashing them. They’re actually good to do business with, which counts for a lot. But, that having been said, working with a salesman who didn’t know much about EVs means that people unfamiliar with EVs aren’t going to drive off the lot knowing how to get the most out of the vehicle.
Dealers & Manufacturers Need To Fix This
Owner education has never been a huge problem for manufacturers. I know the manufacturers have training events for salesman, but if the concepts didn’t stick and the new owners of a 1995 Chevy Cavalier didn’t know how to activate the cigarette lighter, it wasn’t the end of the world. The car would still get from A to B, and it would still run on Regular Unleaded.
Now, they’re sending customers off in an EV with just enough information to get themselves into trouble. If they don’t know the different levels of charging, don’t know how to find stations, and don’t know that the car won’t go the EPA-rated range going 85 MPH down the interstate, their first road trip is going to be a real learning experience, and not the pleasant kind.
Salesperson-Based Training Programs Probably Aren’t The Way
If sending salespeople to training events so they could pass the knowledge on to owners was the way forward, it would have worked properly decades ago. But, ask anybody who researches cars before shopping, and they’ll almost always tell you they knew more than the salesperson did. Instead of doubling or tripling down on failure, maybe it’s time dealers and manufacturers tried something new.
Either the manufacturer itself or someone they contract with should probably be doing this new owner training. That way, people looking for an EV and people who recently bought one could have an expert resource to rely on instead of second-hand or third-hand knowledge.
Multiple types of training should be available. For self-learners, there should be videos and online classes. For people who want a one-on-one experience, a consultant should be able to do do the training (probably for a fee). For everyone else, dealers should probably host a training event every month or two that’s open both to the public and to recent buyers.
Whatever kind of training, people should walk away knowing what a kilowatt is, what a kilowatt-hour is, and how these two things come together to form range and charging speed. They should know what the different levels of charging are, and how fast theirs (or the ones they’re shopping for) can charge. They should know where to go to find resources like station locations, trip planners, and everything else you’d need to plan and execute a successful road trip. They should also know what their home charging options are and who they can turn to for that.
Perhaps more importantly, they should come away with a phone number or app they can use to call or text with questions going forward so they can feel more comfortable while they learn the ropes.
Eventually, all of this EV stuff will become common knowledge like the gas car stuff, but until we get there, there’s going to need to be a serious effort to educate and inform people. Dealers and manufacturers really need to be a part of that effort, even if they aren’t going to do it themselves.
Featured image by Jennifer Sensiba.
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