The Dysfunction Of Fast-Charging Electric Vehicles In California

Yesterday I drove my 85-mile range Nissan LEAF about 50 miles to a destination and decided to fast-charge it there for the return trip.  I checked and found an eVgo fast-charge station (their “Freedom Station”), relatively conveniently located at a mall near my destination.  Here’s what a typical one looks like:

hermosa-beach-sae-combo-1024x682You may recall that eVgo (really energy company NRG) got into this charging game as a “punishment” for having defrauded ratepayers with rolling blackouts in the early part of the last decade.  The settlement with the state called for the company to spend $100 million in charging infrastructure, but the company has not been able to deliver and is now subject to a California Public Utilities Commission audit to determine what’s going wrong.

Now in my case yesterday I found that there was in fact a station I could access.  When I got there, I was pleased with two things: first, the charger was unoccupied, and second, it was actually working.

But here’s where eVgo and its state overlords need improvement.  First, there’s no easy way to pay if you’re not part of the eVgo “network” — a monthly subscription service.  Otherwise, you have to call a 1-800 number and then work your way to a person to manually take down your credit card number like it’s 1995.

Could you imagine the same setup if you went to a gas station?  What if you couldn’t fill up your car at Chevron unless you were a “member”, or else you’d have to jump through hoops?  Solution: make it simple.  Let drivers simply swipe their credit card and be done with it.  Ditch these bogus “network” plan requirements.

Second, the pricing.  I was informed by the customer service rep taking my credit card that it would be a flat $10 charge.  I only needed an additional 40% charge though to get back home without stress.  So why should I pay $10 like I’m getting a full battery charge?  Why not pay by the kilowatt hour, like you would at a gas station (paying by gallon)?

California and the charging companies need to do much better than this if they hope to encourage EV adoption and public charging.  SB 350 now authorizes utilities to get into this charging game at ratepayer expense.  But if the result is simply enabling more of these dysfunctional business models, then it will be money wasted.


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