I am a supporter of the VE. The more electric vehicles on the road, the better. There is a catch, however. The more electric vehicles there are on the road, the more the reliability of the charging infrastructure seems to deteriorate.
Electrify America had a great build but poor following
I’ve driven an electric vehicle since the dawn of commercial electric cars. It’s actually not very long. A little over 10 years. But it’s time to become a charging infrastructure expert in a city (and state) with high EV adoption. It would be Los Angeles.
Electrify America has been expanding its charging network across California and Los Angeles at breakneck speed. It is now the public Level 3 fast-charging station of choice for the majority of non-Tesla EV owners in Los Angeles. And I presume the United States as a whole.
For example, in early 2023, in Santa Clarita (a suburb of Los Angeles), there are three separate Electrify America locations (gas car analog: think three gas stations). Only a few years ago there were none.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that most of the time – in my experience – at least half of the chargers fail. It’s a roll of the dice every time you try to “refuel”.
Imagine if every time you went to the gas station it was a 50-50 guess that the pump would run. And imagine that sometimes (not so rarely) none of the pumps worked.
Take last night…
The following is a too typical example. Last night (as I wrote this) I went to an Electrify America Walmart store in Santa Clarita with 6 chargers.
Most chargers seemed to work. I hooked up to a new “Hyper-Fast” charger (recently installed) and prayed. In vain. I was getting a charge but at a rate only slightly above Level 2 charge rates. This means I would have to sit for hours for a full charge.
So I called Electrify America support and explained the problem. The support person acknowledged that Level 2 charge rates on a 350kW hyper-fast charger were problematic. She restarted the charger and I tried again. Same thing.
I could see that one person was having trouble with another charger and another was broken and not being used. The rest was used. I was pressed for time so decided to go to another Electrify America location in Stevenson Ranch (another part of Santa Clarita).
Out of 4 chargers, only one worked. I received a charge at level 3 fast rates, but when another customer showed up, I watched them try the other three “available” chargers. He failed to operate a charger. So he had to wait for me to finish my charge.
I could go on and on but I think you get the picture…it’s not the exception but the rule.
(In another recent example over the Christmas holidays, I tried to charge at an Electrify America charging point in Century City Los Angeles: all four chargers were down.)
It’s not entirely bad news
I must give credit to Electrify America where credit is due. There’s an Electrify America charging station in the small town of Mojave, CA (in the Mojave Desert) that always seems to work (at least when I go there).
It is really important because when I go (most recently two weeks ago) it’s do or die, charge or perish: if I can’t get a charge, I should look for a wall outlet in a local building .
So it’s not all bad news and there are days when all the chargers in a given Electrify America charging location seem to work, but that’s pretty rare these days.
I contacted Electrify America (a few weeks ago) for a comment, but have yet to receive a response. That said, I’ve spoken to the Electrify America support people quite often and they’ve always been polite and helpful. But that doesn’t solve the problem.
* I frequently use Electrify America chargers in Los Angeles. In recent months, 3-4 times a week.