In EV media and social media, we tend to spend a lot of time worrying about improving EV charging. If it’s not available on every road, it’s a problem. If it’s not working 100%, that’s a problem. Even when it’s widely available and working well (basically Tesla’s Supercharger network), we still know that many, many more stalls are needed for future drivers.
It’s good to focus on these things, because we want the industry to improve and serve EV drivers well as adoption increases, but focusing on the negatives can be pretty depressing after a while. So, I’m going to quickly go through what I’m thankful for with EV charging.
Let’s go back to 2018. If you owned a Tesla in 2018, you probably felt pretty good about EV charging in most places, but if you’re like me and owned a Nissan LEAF, things weren’t great at all. That was the year I traded up to the new 40 kWh version of the vehicle, and I was dumb enough to think it was ready for road trips.
Before that, I owned a 2011 LEAF that I only used around town. Even driving 50-75 miles to El Paso was iffy unless I could plug in for several hours to get home. Later, I had a Chevy Volt, which was electric in town just like the LEAF but could easily do road trips on gas power. I didn’t have Tesla Model S money, and the Model 3 production ramp wasn’t going well at the time, so when I wanted an EV with more range, the new LEAF was the only option for me at the time.
In theory, it could go about 150 miles. When I got in, the range guess-o-meter said it could go over 170 miles sometimes. So, I got on Google Maps, figured out where charging was available, and the biggest gap was going to be about 140 miles. Awesome!
I left Chandler, Arizona with a full battery, and had no trouble getting to Tucson. But, the batter seemed like it had used more than 2/3 of its range in that 100 miles, which was concerning. I charged up at an EVgo station and then hit the road for Willcox, where I planned to charge at an RV park and sleep.
By morning, the battery was full, and I drove on to Deming, NM. That 140-mile stretch of road was, according to the guess-o-meter, within reach. But, when I had been going for a few minutes, I figured out pretty quickly that the range was dropping faster than anticipated.
So, I slowed down. Then, I slowed down some more. And some more. At one point, I was going 45 MPH on the highway with the hazard lights on. I took side roads and frontage roads whenever possible. I ended up rolling into Deming with — miles on the display and 0%. I grabbed some food and headed to the RV park, but the car died about a quarter mile shy of the RV park. Some guys helped me push the car into the RV park, and I was able to make it to my destination.
The following year, I tried to take the LEAF out on a couple more road trips. One misguided adventure was a 12oo-mile trip to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest National Park, among other stops for business and pleasure. This took several days longer than expected.
5 Years Makes A Huge Difference
Today, that trip would be a lot easier. If I still owned the Nissan LEAF, it would still have problems, but not so much from lack of charging. The well-known #Rapidgate problem, a result of no liquid cooling, keeps the car from being able to charge quickly on second and subsequent charging stops. But, the charging situation for other cars like my Bolt EUV is far better.
Along that route, Deming has two charging stations now. Lordsburg has an Electrify America station and EVgo is building another one with GM. Benson (between Tucson and Willcox) has a station. So, other than slow charging, even the LEAF would be able to get from Phoenix to El Paso. That trip can now be done, even in a LEAF, in one day instead of having to throw an overnight stop at an RV park in.
I-25 in New Mexico recently got EV charging both in Truth or Consequences and Socorro. So, the Bolt I own can make the trip to Albuquerque now. I can also head into and even through eastern New Mexico on most routes.
Heading into Texas instead of New Mexico, the situation has also vastly improved. My Bolt wouldn’t have been able to drive across Texas without several RV park stays in 2018. Last year, I drove to Houston twice with nothing but minor inconveniences along the way.
The next thing for me to tackle will be a trip across the country to North Carolina to visit my wife’s family, and now there’s no charging gap between here and there. With some recently-added stations on the route we can even do it with a small travel trailer now. I’m not afraid one bit to do it.
This Is Why I’m Not A Big Complainer
It’s important to look for problems with EVs and EV charging infrastructure and make them known. This helps new EV buyers have reasonable expectations, and it helps provide pressure for companies to improve.
But, at the same time, there are some people who make every little problem sound like it’s the end of the world. Dumb little problems, like having to plug in and restart a charge once or twice, or having to move to another stall, are real problems, but that doesn’t mean the station in question is worthless and that everyone should by a Tesla (OH! And here’s my referral code! Have you seen the stonk price?).
Most of the biggest complainers are people who are pretty new to the EV scene. They never had to charge at an RV park. They never sat for hours at an L2 charging station, or ran an extension cord out a motel room door. They got into EVs with a Tesla Model 3 or Y and had it pretty good over the last 2-3 years. So, when they encounter any little problem, it’s the end of the world.
I get that I’m an early adopter, and that mainstream buyers need a more hassle-free experience, but at the same time, I’m pretty happy with what we have so far because I know what it’s like to have nothing.
Featured image by Jennifer Sensiba.
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