EV charging stations aren’t always in the best places for night users

Would you be happy to spend 30 minutes in an empty parking lot at 11:30 p.m.? Advise your child or a loved one to do so?

Probably not, but electric vehicle owners often face this prospect when they need to charge a vehicle away from home.

It’s not uncommon for smartphone apps to send drivers to ‘public’ electric vehicle chargers in the backyard of a closed car dealership, in an empty corner of a big box store parking lot, or behind closed doors.

“These are less-than-natural places for people to want to stop on a long trip,” said Gabe Shenhar, associate director of automotive testing at Consumer Reports.

At the start of the current wave of electric vehicle adoption, a charger was in such an intimidating location that some women involved in the project called it “the rape charger” because the location seemed so dangerous. The charger was eventually moved, but this highlights issues that persist today:

  • EV chargers are often found in neglected backyard spaces to save money by connecting them to major utility lines.
  • As with many projects, the women do not have enough opinion on where the chargers should go.

“Visibility and safety are the issues at the table,” said Chelsea Sexton, advocate for electric vehicles. “No one will use a charger that doesn’t feel safe. Lighting, amenities, washrooms, things to do while you wait are important.

Important, but rare.

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There are several reasons for this. Most EV owners charge at home most of the time overnight. This means that many public chargers are not widely used. It’s hard to monetize them if they’re only used a few hours a day, but it’s also hard to convince drivers to buy more EVs if they don’t find convenient and safe public charging when they do. need, especially on long motorway trips. .

While planning a long interstate highway drive recently, I found several instances where the only DC fast chargers available were in many dealerships that would certainly be deserted, and possibly closed, when I reached them at night.

“Grid-attached chargers are generally placed as close as possible to available power to reduce the cost of extending circuits” with trenches and cabling, said Desmond Wheatley, CEO of Beam Global, which manufactures chargers. solar energy that can be placed anywhere. “As a result, there are a lot of chargers at the back of the supermarket where the dumpsters are and where the electricity goes into the building.

“The first users of electric vehicles will support this, but not the mass consumers. “

Tesla got it right. How others can catch up

Superchargers, the network of proprietary DC fast chargers that Tesla has built for its customers, “tend to be in busy, well-lit areas,” Shenhar said. Other chargers, most operated by companies that derive only revenue from the electricity they sell, “tend to be in linear shopping malls that work well during the day, less at night,” he said. -he declares. “They are not well lit, empty, have few services available. The women expressed concerns about safety.

This problem will only get worse as more and more electric vehicles are put into circulation.

“While the majority of charging happens at home and in the workplace, there must also be reliable options for public charging,” said Nicole Antakli, Commercial Director of Charge Enterprises. “Every consumer must feel comfortable when recharging their vehicle; this should include the ease of the mechanics of the charging equipment connecting to the vehicle, accessibility of payments, exceptional visibility, efficient lighting and monitoring of chargers.

Volta Charging places ad-supported chargers in high profile locations in front of shopping, entertainment and dining destinations. Its thousands of chargers across the United States are recognizable because they sit in front of popular businesses and have video screens and speakers selling premium products and services.

“It’s a triple win,” said Quin Garcia, managing director of Autotech Ventures, an investor in Volta. “It’s free for the customer, advertisers benefit from visibility and the company benefits from accreditation at their doorstep. Volta can afford to run high voltage lines to its charging stations because it receives advertising revenue, unlike services whose only revenue comes from the sale of electricity.

Charging companies and car manufacturers both have a role to play in ensuring easy and safe charging.

General Motors has the opportunity to make a major impact with the 40,000 public loaders it has promised to install across the United States, and thousands more at its dealerships. GM’s recently announced $ 750 million program to expand public, business and home charging will only be successful if the stations are easy to find and people are comfortable using them, day or night.

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