Which EV fleets are most likely to face defective public chargers in the future?

Date: Saturday February 18, 2023

There has been an increase in incidents related to defective public chargers for EVs around the globe. It is instrumental to understand which type of EV fleets are likely to face this issue. EV fleets differ in operations considering idle time, size of the battery and probability to travel far-flung areas. These factors influence the probability of exposure to malfunctioning charging points. Many studies now highlight that defective chargers are a serious problem in countries which are rapidly adopting EVs. The main findings from some leading studies are provided below.

Main studies highlighting the issue of defective public chargers

California Air Resource Board concluded a study in 2021-2022 to understand charging-related problems for customers. This study covered the main reasons behind complaints of people using charging points which are summarised below.

Main reasons for customer complaints after using EV charging points

reasons for customer complaints over ev charging chart

The main complaints revolve around the malfunction of EV chargers (charging stations not working 42%). There were also concerns regarding the payment systems and interoperability. Hence, real-time working information coupled with smooth charging payments would resolve main customer grievances.

According to a study conducted by the University of California Berkley in March 2022, 28% of publicly available DC fast chargers were found defective. The researchers tested 657 DC fast chargers in the area of California. This study further highlighted that 22.7% of the chargers were not in operation due to unresponsive touch screens, broken connectors or network failures. Moreover, 4.9% of the chargers tested had a short charge cable to reach the charging port.

The above studies put a question mark on 95%-98% uptime reported by CPOs. There should be a third-party assessment of the uptime of chargers to provide real-time information to the final consumers. This would increase the reliability of charging towards CPOs. Public display of information would lead to positive competition benefiting final users.

Who could be made responsible for defective public chargers?

The main reason for faulty chargers could be the quality of chargers is below a certain threshold. These could include the performance of one or many stakeholders related to CPO operations Guidelines should be developed so that this agency or person could rectify the situation immediately.

  • The power system should be working effectively and utilities can be made responsible for the provision of power and their equipment.
  • Stable internet connection so charging software is maintained smoothly. The burden could either fall on the Internet providers or CPOs with connection issues.
  • The CPOs be made responsible for the real-time working condition of the chargers.
  • If there is a maintenance or repair company, they should also be accountable for their performance.
  • OEMs must ensure EVs have updated and talking technologies that enable effective communication between charging points and vehicles.
  • Consumers must ensure that they handle the cables and sockets with care so that the damage could be avoided from their end.

Apart from CPOs (Allege, IONITY, Charge point, Tesla, Greenway and Fastened) following are the main players and responsible parties who help set up the charging points.

Main players involved in EV charging points’ operations

main players in ev charging point operations chart

Which areas could be most affected by defective public chargers?

Proximity could play a vital role to repair EV chargers. Defective chargers could be mended in urban areas with ease due to the provision of nearby services. However, rural charging stations could be hard hit and it would take a long time to mend them due to long distances and lack of services. In the US people travel long distances to work, hence, faulty chargers in far-flung areas would increase frustration among consumers.

Impact of defective public chargers on EV (business) fleets

Some of the fleets have a low probability to use public charging points and rely on depot or home-based charging. The EV fleet which relies on depot-based charging will have a low probability to encounter a malfunctioning publicly charging point. The factors which influence public charging points usage for EV fleets can be categorized are as following; idle time, size of the battery, the probability to travel far-flung/ rural areas and the need for publicly available DC Fast Charging (DCFC). In the following diagram, we provide the probability to use DCFC. In the subsequent section, we discuss each type of EV fleet in detail.

Different EV fleets’ probability to use fast public charging points

EV fleets probability to use fast public chargers chart

Company electric cars

There is a high probability that company electric cars will be charged at home or at depots/ offices. They also have a small battery which makes it easy to schedule business trips at designated depots or home-based charging. Hence, with proper planning fleet managers can avoid public charging if there is an increase in malfunctioning public chargers in the future.

Electric vans

Electric vans have medium idle time, fixed routes and medium size batteries. Electric vans have a low probability to have business trips in the far-flung area. Fleet managers have to take extra cautious measures to take into consideration traffic jams which can impact the battery. Fleet managers can plan (routes) to meet unexpected exigencies (traffic jams) so that electric vans return to depots with sufficient batteries intact. This will help fleet managers reduce dependence on public charging stations.

Electric school buses

Electric school buses will have minimal or no dependence on public charging points. Electric school buses have considerable idle time, fixed routes and medium-sized batteries that enable charging at depots only. Researchers consider this EV ideal for the vehicle to grid (V2G) technology.

Intercity electric buses

Inter-city or regional electric buses have low idle time, medium-sized batteries and fixed routes. These vehicles have a high probability to travel far-flung areas. They will need DCFC charging due to having low waiting time at public points. If there is a long queue for defective charger(s), it will hamper their business severely.

Long haul electric buses trucks

Long haul electric trucks have large batteries, low idle time and a high probability to travel far-flung areas. Hence, long-haul electric trucks will also be relying considerably on DCFC public charging points. However, Tesla’s Semi could be a game changer in this field. Tesla has a history to build its own rapid fast chargers which are extremely effective and have a low probability of breakdowns. Its mobile applications are also reliable to provide customers with correct and real-time information about their charging status. In the coming years, if Tesla Semi gains popularity (like their previous electric cars) coupled with robust fast charging points, it will make fleet managers consider relying on Tesla Semi and its charging points rather than other CPOs.

From the above discussion, we can understand that regional/ intercity electric buses and long-haul electric trucks fleet will face a high probability of charging from public chargers. A rapid response will be required for far-flung or rural areas if there is a fault in public charging points. This could be a serious business loss for electric trucks and regional electric buses if there is a high waiting time to charge EVs due to malfunctioning charging points.

The way out

  • OEMs should carry randomised independent checks on the charging stations. If there are faulty chargers, OEMs can push CPOs to rectify this situation immediately. In this regard, Ford has taken an advanced step and created a team called “Charged Angels”. This team informs Ford of the working condition of chargers so they could take the necessary action.
  • Recently, the application and website of PlugShare provide information on chargers which require maintenance. However, it does not include all CPOs. Besides, PlugShare is fairly young in the online world and must develop market trust. Such applications are instrumental that provide real-time information on chargers irrespective of the connections. Integration of correct and timely information with google maps could also reduce drivers’ anxiety related to charging point operations.
  • Financial support can be provided to CPOs to introduce new technology to improve the maintenance and repair of their charging points. Maintenance of electric supply equipment would need more importance and allocation of fixed resources to meet short and long objectives.
  • Legislation should be mandated to CPOs to provide the periodical performance of EV chargers. This should also state how much time in hours the charger was not operational. California is also working with nationwide maintenance standards. The University of California Berkley suggests the use of “uptime” is controversial since there is no legislation or standard to define uptime. Hence, clear rules should be allocated regarding the clarification of uptime for CPOs.
  • Reliance on multiple payment systems can also reduce the performance of charging points. Moreover, the cognitive burden on consumers can be increased to use multiple RFID cards. Real-time information on charging status and flexible payment options (acceptance of credit cards/ interoperability) would increase customer confidence towards charging points.

CPOs must ensure that consumers are provided with real-time information on their chargers. Moreover, CPOs should also clearly state the uptime of their chargers transparently to the final consumers. There is current financial support provided to set up charging points. The same support can be provided to CPOs to elevate maintenance and repair methods. Acceptance of charging points can be elevated by increasing regular checks on publicly available charging points. Long haul electric trucks and regional electric buses will depend on DCFC which is in far flun areas. These vehicles would be most likely to have large expenditures due to long waiting times after malfunctioning chargers in far-flung areas. Hence, maintenance and repair of DCFC in rural or remote areas will gain considerable importance in the future.

A detailed study is covered for education and fleet electrification process in our Global Fleet Electrification Study. A link to download the free abstract is provided below.