The Wall Street Journal Tried 126 Non-Tesla DC Fast Chargers. It Didn’t Go Well

Everyone who has read at least a couple of articles about owning an electric car knows that the best way to charge an EV is generally at home, overnight, with a Level 1 or Level 2 charger. It’s usually the cheapest method, considering the charger comes with the car, and energy prices should be lower than those of public DC fast chargers.

But that doesn’t work for every driver and every situation. Sometimes you need to get a quick top-up. Either you’re on a road trip or you don’t have a charger at home—as is the case for a lot of owners, according to this recent study from S&P Global Mobility—a DC fast charger is the solution.

But, as the video embedded at the top of this page shows, the experience might be less than stellar. In fact, it can suck big time, especially if you don’t have all the different charging providers’ smartphone apps installed and set up on your smartphone. In a new video from The Wall Street Journal, we see tech columnist Joanna Stern’s many attempts at recharging a Rivian R1T at 126 Non-Tesla DC fast charging stalls in 30 Los Angeles County locations.

More than a quarter of them, 27%, were outright broken, displaying an “Out of Service” message on the screen or they were simply wrapped in caution tape and a piece of paper saying it doesn’t work was stuck on them. 

That’s a pretty high number of inoperable chargers, and it’s an issue that can potentially put an end to a trip if the EV’s charge is running low. It’s also in line with this study’s findings, which showed that the overall satisfaction with DC fast chargers in the United States has decreased compared to last year despite increased investment in that field.

But the headaches didn’t end here for Stern, a longtime tech writer who also recently documented her own EV testing journey. While driving up to a charger that’s out of service is frustrating, at least you know immediately that you need to find another location to charge your EV’s battery. It’s a whole other story when you get your hopes up seeing an online charger but spend minutes on end trying to get the thing to actually charge the car.

A Rivian R1T charging at an EVgo station

About 10% of the stalls Stern visited had card payment issues. At least one stall displayed a hilarious “Cash Only” message on its card reader, which must be very confusing for new users, especially since you can’t actually pay with cash at these stalls.

Then, even if the chargers accepted the payment, some of them refused to establish a “handshake” connection with the vehicle on the first try. Basically, one persistent challenge with EV charging is getting the charger’s software to work perfectly in harmony with the car’s software, as this is vastly different from the mechanical process of filling up a gas tank. Often, it means the charging cable has to be unplugged and plugged back in, and a little prayer needs to be recited in the hopes that it will work the second time around. But sometimes it doesn’t. So the cycle begins once more.

Stern goes on to say that the payment issues were mostly resolved by installing the provider’s smartphone app but as the highest-rated comment on the YouTube video says, it’s not a very user-friendly environment, especially if you’re renting an EV. “Renting an electric car and having to download the 30 apps was one of the most insufferable experiences ever I’ve been through,” she said. 

So, what’s the solution? The video says that all non-Tesla providers contacted for this piece are trying to update their hardware so that the connection issues are less of a concern. Plus, the companies deployed technicians to the sites that were out of order, to try and fix them.

As for Tesla’s Supercharger network, it’s currently the most reliable DC fast charging network in the United States, with a stated uptime of over 99%. 

But will this change after the floodgates to other EV manufacturers open next year? Let us know in the comments.

Read the author’s full story here

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