Electrify America Really Does Seem To Be Improving

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Recently, Electrify America told us all in a press release that the company has put in new power modules at many stations to improve reliability. This makes a lot of sense, because there were many signs that power modules were the culprit. Everything from popping sounds to damaged vehicles (extremely rare) to an unauthorized video of a smoking power cabinet showed us that the company’s chargers simply weren’t in great shape.

In interviews, EA’s people have said that the problem went undetected for years because the early generations of charging stations seemed fine when they were put in. But, once non-Tesla EV ownership started really taking off and the machines were having to work harder for longer, they just couldn’t cope with the additional stress. This has, in turn, led to the company shifting from building new stations to swapping old ones out.

But, as usual, you can’t always take people at their word. Just because Electrify America said that the power modules in older units were replaced and that they’re more reliable, doesn’t mean that we can just assume that they are.

Fortunately, it’s been a few weeks and there has been time for sites like Plugshare to collect data on charging sessions. So, I decided to poke around on there are see if stations I know to be overworked and flaky have improved.

The LA-Phoenix Route

One that many people have complained about is the charging station in Quartzsite, Arizona. Given the high EV adoption rate in California and the fact that many people drive out to Phoenix and back, that lone CCS station in Quartzsite is a bit of a canary in the proverbial coal mine.

I’m not about to assume that a 10 rating means much, so I had to dig into the reports there and go back several weeks to see if people were having problems.

I had to go all the way back to December to see any evidence of failed charging sessions. There were some complaints about the beginning of January, but starting sometime around the fifth, the station has had just about perfect reports.

So, that station appears to be in far better shape now.

Benson, AZ

Across the state, another lone CCS EV charging station has had a lot of trouble late last year: the one at Walmart in Benson, Arizona. While it doesn’t have all of that busy LA to Phoenix, traffic, it’s still along a busy interstate in a time when more people are buying EVs.

Sadly, it doesn’t seem that this one has been gotten to. People report being able to charge, but a number of dead stations and other problems seem to continue to plague them.

So, either this station is going to get an upgrade or it’s not gotten the new modules yet.

Lordsburg, NM

The next Electrify America station up the road has likewise been buggy in the past. It’s presently the only CCS station after Benson and before Deming, so it gets a lot of use, too. The complaints at that one seemed to end in mid-January. All subsequent reports have either been just reported as successful or comments were made that didn’t indicate any stations were down.

Fortunately, that station is going to get some relief in the coming months. A new GM/Pilot station is going in two exits down, and a new Supercharger is supposed to have CCS plugs (Magic Dock) sometime this year at the next exit.

A Big Question Mark

One thing is uncertain at this point. Will Electrify America be replacing these stations later with the latest generation design, or have the power modules been replaced with a better design?

If the power modules are better and will stand up to heavy use, then there won’t be any real need for an upgrade to the latest station design. Getting good reliability out of existing equipment for the long-haul would be good for everyone involved. Obviously, this would save EA some money, but it would also help drivers to not need to deal with some lonesome stations being out of commission for weeks or months.

However, if the new power modules they got put in aren’t improved in any way, this is just a stop-gap measure. With enough time and use, a repeat of the old modules will lead to degrading reliability and people occasionally getting stranded again.

Sadly, like the last time, we might not actually know this until the stations have been running with the new modules for a while. Everybody thought that the stations were good when they were new, and that clearly didn’t turn out as expected. So, Electrify America might not even really know.

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Relief Is Coming Either Way, Though

While there will still be towns that only have an Electrify America station, this will be a much more rare situation for CCS cars in the coming months.

The obvious big relief is that Tesla is opening up the network to most other manufacturers’ cars. The adapters are already available, but at present no manufacturer is offering app access to actually start a charge. But that’s coming. I’ve already got a review adapter on hand so I can see what it’s like as soon as GM and Tesla have it all figured out.

Another big thing coming is more stations from GM and Pilot truck stops. These Pilot/Flying J and Ultium-branded stations are in various stages of construction along the interstates. They tend to offer 4 or more stalls. Two of the stations I looked at earlier in this article have a nearby Pilot or Flying J truck stop that’s under construction, so that’s going to take some of the load off the Electrify America machines.

Between these two things, there are many places where EA’s reliability will benefit from the new stations taking the load off. But, the other benefit is that even if these new modules don’t hold up for as long as we’d hope, there will at least be more alternative stations for CCS cars to charge at.

The only group of drivers who won’t benefit much, and may never benefit, are those with CHAdeMO cars. Neither Tesla nor GM/Pilot will be putting in CHAdeMO stalls.

Featured image by Jennifer Sensiba.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1989 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba