If you asked me two weeks ago what percentage was currently from the United States ready for electric vehicle adoption, I probably would have answered 30-ish. As things stand now, eight days after starting a 10-day off-road electric vehicle driving competition, I’m not sure it’s even that high. I was hoping to be able to demonstrate on this trip that the EV infrastructure is robust and ready for interstate travel and that range anxiety is a thing of the past. Unfortunately, now I am more discouraged than ever.
Electrify America exists as required by the government penance for the Volkswagen diesel cheating scandal. Without it, the state of non-Tesla charging would be extremely bleak. With this charger network in place, however, CCS infrastructure has flourished rapidly along interstate routes in recent years. Having used them for most of this trip across the country, I can say that we cannot do better than to abandon the “extremely“But it’s still pretty shabby.
At best, the US charging network works 90% of the time. At least one in ten cars I plug in needs to be reset, provides an extremely slow charge or, in one case, has turned our borrowed Porsche into a very expensive and very heavy weight for several hours. Thankfully there is a rather large salary in the recently passed Infrastructure Act which is meant for building more charging infrastructure. How should that money be spent?
A charging station every 100-150 miles along major interstate routes is totally unacceptable. No more choices on where to loadElectric vehicle drivers are limited to high-traffic routes, which is pretty much okay until you come across a broken charger. If your car has 200 miles of range, you stop at just about every charger to fill up. If any of these chargers are slow or won’t connect or deliver a damaged data packet to your car’s charger port, you’re a boned devil.
The Indiana and Colorado sections have been the worst of the trip so far. Following the chargers means driving several kilometers to get the juice. For example, there are no audience Fast DC charger in a big enough city like walk to Wayne, Indiana, so we had to swerve south through Ohio to Dayton to get a charge to get to Indianapolis. Things got even grimmer in Colorado, as the fastest chargers along our route were 125kW stations, but they are “shared” stations. If two cars are connected at the same location at the same time, 125 kW will be split between them. And it won’t do it evenly either. As we found out, the second one to get to the charger received about 30kW, and the first car at the station got 70-ish. We were unable to account for the other 25.
Building a huge sprawling network of fast chargers does nothing if they’re built as cheaply as possible and run on easily hackable Windows systems. And it’s especially frustrating when, in the Taycan’s case, we plug into dozens of advertised 350kW chargers and can’t even pull 100kW. Just last night in Flagstaff, Arizona, I recorded the fastest recharge rate I’ve ever seen in the past eight days. 261 kW is fine when you’re used to between 30 and 150, but that’s a far cry from what the Taycan can accept and what the machine says it can deliver.
Multiple individual chargers per station
Below is a photo of a station in the middle of Kansas. This is what bricked up our car for three hours, which is frustrating. Even more frustrating, however, is that the two 150kW chargers on either end only provided speeds of around 30kW. of the two 350 stations in the middle, one was delivering high voltage errors and the other was pumping around 80kW.
If / when all four of these units have been resolved, there is still the problem of station congestion. Four posts are barely enough to handle EV traffic as it is right now. Any kind of growth and this station will be overloaded quickly. Instead of bringing up the bare minimum of stations, we need to push to future-proof that infrastructure.
Electric cars are great and I remain excited about the future of electric vehicles, but we need to do something fast to make crossing the country not only possible, but affordable and reliable. Right now I can leave Los Angeles in a gasoline or diesel vehicle and be able to tell you quite reliably within about 10 percent of what time I will arrive in New York City. In an electric car, that spread could be more like 50 percent. We, as a country, need to focus on reducing the gap between expected and actual.