If you follow certain YouTubers or listen to some of the Tesla stans on Twitter, your impression of Electrify America could be pretty poor. According to some, it’s an utterly unreliable charging network, plagued with issues that strand drivers, perhaps even making them start life over in some rural town between the coasts until the problem gets fixed (and it never does). I wouldn’t surprise me to hear from some of these people that the CEO wears custom baby seal leather boots.
While the issues that Electrify America has are exaggerated, that doesn’t mean there’s no truth at all behind the criticism. Stalls are sometimes down, but it’s pretty rare to find a whole station where you can’t get a charge. It doesn’t charge idle fees, and should definitely do that for its busiest stations. People also have frequent problems getting a charge started, and have to plug it back in 2 or 3 times to get a good connection. Sometimes the charge is just slower than it should be.
When Rob Barrosa got selected to be the next CEO of the company, he asked people online what his first acts should be as CEO. Several people told him that he should go see for himself what the charging network is like, with one commenter saying he should take a road trip from Los Angeles to the headquarters in Virginia and back, and only use Electrify America’s chargers.
Unlike many CEOs who would just ignore people online, Barrosa decided to take the guy up on the dare, and actually make the drive from Los Angeles to Virginia.
While the video doesn’t make everybody happy, it’s pretty close to what I’ve experienced and what other CCS vehicle drivers I know have experienced. Personally, I’ve been across Texas a couple of times using Electrify America chargers, and I’ve also been into Arizona. I’ve never been stranded, but I’ve seen dead charging stalls, the occasional problem getting a session started (it always started on the second try, and works better if you pull up on the handle until it locks). Other drivers I’ve talked to have had a similar experience, with minor problems but almost never anything serious (with some catastrophic but very rare exceptions).
What’s more notable is that Electrify America didn’t do anything to try to hide that the stations have problems. The company admitted, on camera, that its stations experience outages, slower than rated speeds, and problems getting a charge started. Electrify America even explained why there are sometimes free sessions (something broken), and found a broken station displaying a Windows screen. But, it was also fair with itself and showed that crossing the country shouldn’t be a problem and that drivers can depend on Electrify America to get there, even if there are some inconveniences.
What He Saw Along The Way
Robert embarked on a cross-country road trip from March 31 to April 6, driving a Hyundai IONIQ 5 from Los Angeles, CA, to Electrify America’s headquarters in Reston, Virginia. The total distance traveled was close to 2,800 miles, with Robert making stops at 28 Electrify America charging stations spread across 13 states.
“This was an important trip for me for several reasons,” said Barrosa in a company press release. “I wanted first-hand experience charging in many locations and to talk to customers to get real time insights . Through rain and sunshine, daytime and nighttime, my charging experiences across the country were generally seamless. With customer experience remaining a top priority, we will be focused on continuous improvements.”
Electrify America inaugurated its first charging station in Chicopee, MA, with 350 kW chargers in May 2018. This trip marked the 5-year anniversary, making for something special for the company to show off, even if it wasn’t entirely flattering.
Over these five years, the company has spread its presence across 46 states and the District of Columbia, while investing in EV education, workforce development programs, and accessible charging options. The company continues to install charging stations at an average of three per week, totaling over 800 stations and 3,500+ chargers.
“We’re at a pivotal moment five years in,” said Barrosa. “As adoption of electric vehicles grows, Electrify America needs to continue to lead the way for charging infrastructure to scale in parallel. We have come a very long way in educating consumers and building range confindence through our coast-to-coast network of DC fast chargers. I’m looking forward to leading Electrify America into the future. ”
What I’m Hoping This Leads To
Probably the most important thing in this video was that the new CEO put himself in customers’ shoes. He saw the network for what it is, and not what other people who praise or bash it tell him it is. It’s also important that he got out there and saw other people dealing with the network, and some of their struggles.
Perhaps more importantly, it appears that he spent time talking to people at the stations, and learned not only what his own experience was like, but what the experiences of others have been. Getting that broad information is the only way for the guy at the top to know what’s going on, without any kind of corporate yes-men, PR guys, or anybody else putting spin on it.
At the same time, it’s also important for him and viewers to see that the experience isn’t a complete dumpster fire, either. YouTube commenters and most people on social media are like the rest of us, and don’t take road trips every week (even if I’d like to). When the nattering nabobs of charging negativism are playing up the problems to get YouTube views or to pump Tesla stock, they’re also not giving us the truth.
By finding the truth in the middle, between the irrational people sugar-coating or hyping up problems, Electrify America can now operate based on the actual ground truth. This puts it in a position, starting at the very top, where it understands the problems it is dealing with and how it affects real EV drivers.
Armed with this truth, it’s possible now for Electrify America to go out and make the truth better for us.
Featured image provided by Electrify America.
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