EV Charging Infrastructure Falling Behind

This past week, my wife brought a local news report to my attention.  The report stated that ChargePoint had recently installed 19 EV (electric vehicle) chargers near a parking garage in downtown San Luis Obispo.  At first glance, I thought it was wonderful news.  I always enjoy seeing positive news about EVs.  However, the more I thought about these new chargers, the more I thought how they are basically useless for today’s EV owner.

When EVs started to take hold more than 5 years ago, with the exception of Tesla, the range of the average EV was around 100 miles.  With limited range, EVs need destination charging stations located at places where the EV owners want to visit.  If I had an EV that had around 100 miles of range, I would need a charger, like the new ChargePoint chargers, in order to drive from my home to San Luis Obispo and back.  With the increased range of EVs today, the 19 new ChargePoint chargers are basically obsolete.

The new ChargePoint chargers deliver a maximum 6.6 kW of AC power.  For the average EV, charging at that rate provides about 25 miles of range per hour of charging.  ChargePoint charges $1.50 per hour to charge at these chargers.  The charging fee increases to $4.00 per hour for any charging time over 4 hours.  That’s equivalent to paying around $2.00 per gallon for gasoline, if you charge for no more than 4 hours.  It’s not a great price, but it is a good price.

The problem with these types of chargers is that, if you own an EV that has over 200 miles of range, there is no point to using these chargers.  My EV has a full range of about 300 miles.  If I am traveling to San Luis Obispo from my home, which is about 35 miles away, I can easily drive round-trip without recharging.  My home charger is 9.5 kW and I pay about $0.18 per kWh.  I get 38 kWh in 4 hours at a cost of a little over $6.  The ChargePoint chargers deliver about 26 kWh in 4 hours at a cost of $6.  It’s less expensive for me to charge at my house than to use the ChargePoint destination chargers, and my house is a lot more convenient.

If I am traveling a long distance with San Luis Obispo as my destination, it is likely that I will need more of a charge than I can get at the ChargePoint chargers.  For a longer trip, I would need a DC fast charger or a Tesla Supercharger.  If I need to recharge, getting 26 kWh in 4 hours is not sufficient.  When traveling, fast charging is necessary, unless you plan to stay overnight at your charging destination.  Using the ChargePoint chargers would not work for overnight charging because of their 4-hour charging limit.

Perhaps you are seeing my point now?  Someone had to pay to install these 19 destination chargers.  If they are useless to most of today’s EV owners, what was the point of installing them in the first place?  The only place where it is reasonable to have such low-powered destination chargers is at a location where an EV owner would be parking for more than 4 hours, such as at a hotel.

There are a few locations in my area that have destination chargers available for use at no charge.  It makes sense to plug into a free destination charger while shopping.  It is what is known as convenience charging, as opposed to necessity charging.  If I shop at a location that has a free destination charger, I will plug in if a charger is available.  It does not make sense to use a paid, low-capacity destination charger when I don’t need to charge.

A DC fast charging station would have been more useful at the San Luis Obispo location.  A couple of years ago, I visited the city of Victoria, BC while driving a Tesla Model S.  At that time, there were no Tesla Superchargers in Victoria.  However, there was a DC fast charging station in a parking garage at a shopping center I visited.  When I arrived at the shopping center, my car had about 25% charge in the battery pack.  I was parked there for about an hour and charged the car to almost 90% at a cost of about $8.00 USD.  In that situation, a low-powered destination charger would have been useless.

People who don’t drive EVs will probably view the new ChargePoint chargers in San Luis Obispo as something positive.  From my point of view, they are a missed opportunity.