Volkswagen paid to have the Electrify America charging network built. Unfortunately, little effort went into ensuring the network’s continued reliability.
In 2015, Volkswagen was found guilty of cheating on emissions testing in small diesel-powered cars. This event became known as Dieselgate (because we love to add “gate” to anything negative), and part of the restitutions owed was to send $2 billion to build an electric car charging network. The result of this scandal was the Electrify America charging network. Unfortunately, many consumers report this charging network is at the bottom of the list in terms of reliability, making it frustrating to use.
Are poorly performing charging stations slowing EV adoption?
The Electrify America charging network has thousands of charging ports across the country, making it the second-largest network behind the Tesla Supercharging network. This would be a wonderful part of the transition to EVs if the Volkswagen-funded chargers actually worked, but many don’t. An unreliable EV charger presents different challenges than a gas station that’s run out of fuel or has pumps that don’t work. EV chargers aren’t a common sight yet, which makes finding another place to charge an EV difficult for those relying on these chargers to fuel their rides.
Should the settlement money have had more regulation and oversight?
If your eyes glazed over reading regulation and oversight, don’t worry; it’s common. Too often, we wonder when the rules and regulations will stop. It’s similar to taxes, which we pay on everything in our lives. Although Volkswagen paid $2 billion to build the Electrify America charging network, not much has been done to ensure this network is well-maintained and functional at all times.
Actually, the original agreement states Volkswagen can be fined $2,000 with an increase to $50,000 for failure to implement an approved maintenance plan. So far, no fines have been imposed on the company by the EPA or CARB, but many EV drivers have reported seeing Electrify America chargers that are broken and remain so for several months. It seems someone isn’t doing their job.
How unreliable is the Electrify American charging network?
Is there any truth to the claims of unreliable chargers? Almost all of the non-Tesla networks have significant reliability issues, but a study by Rempel shows that only 72.5 percent of all public fast chargers in the San Francisco Bay Area were working when the study was conducted. In another study by J.D. Power, only 80 of all charge attempts are successful.
What does this mean for EV drivers? It means they need to have a backup plan in case they arrive at a public charger and it doesn’t work. This means incredible frustration and difficulty getting from place to place, especially for those who typically drive many miles at a time and must use these public chargers to add driving range to their batteries.
In addition to charging locations that don’t work, a Berkely study found that seven percent of the Electrify America stations don’t have a cord long enough to reach the vehicle that needs to be charged. It seems the Volkswagen settlement money is mostly wasted on the Electrify America charging network.
Electrify America sticks to the original Volkswagen plan
The original plan for the $2 billion was written in 2016 when the only EVs that could travel more than 150 miles on a single charge were made by Tesla. Today, almost all EVs require DC Fast-Charging networks and can travel much further than 150 miles. Still, in response to suggestions and questions regarding performance requirements of the investment plan, Electrify America intends to follow the original requirements of the agreement. That’s similar to a car company continuing to only use safety features offered in 2016 without embracing any of the technology developed over the past seven years.
Without an improved maintenance plan or upgrades to address the increased use of charging stations, Electrify America will continue to be at the bottom in terms of actual performance. Because this charging network was built with the public interest in mind, this company should be held to a higher standard, and the agreement should evolve with modern times.
In all fairness, Electrify America has upgraded and replaced many of the chargers across the country in an attempt to improve reliability and charging speeds. This might be one area where a more concrete, modernized plan of maintenance and upkeep is required. That might not happen without fines or government oversight. This Volkswagen-funded electric charging company is supposed to be how VW makes up for the diesel emissions scandal of 2015, but it seems to be failing pitifully at that.
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