According to a study released earlier this week, over 27% of all electric vehicle charging stations in the San Francisco Bar area are non-functioning, bringing forward a major issue that may push back further public adaptation of electric cars in California in the coming years.
The study, known as the Reliability of Open Public Electric Vehicle Direct Current Fast Chargers, and headed by UC Berkeley bioengineering professor David Rempel and the environmental non-profit group Cool the Earth, tested the functionality of 657 EVSE (electric vehicle service equipment) connectors at all 181 open public, non-Tesla charging stations in the Bay area. All EVSEs were then marked as functional if a charge was held for more than two minutes.
In total, only 72.5% of the EVSEs were found to be functional. 22.7% of connectors had unresponsive or unavailable screens, payment system failures, charge initiation failures, network failures, or broken connectors. Another 4.9% of chargers had cables too short to reach the cars charging port, also rending them unusable. Furthermore, 10% of all the EVSEs were randomly reevaluated 8 days later to see if any changes of functionality were made, but no overall changes were recorded.
As noted by the study, the findings show that the number of non-working chargers is far below the EV service providers 95% to 98% charger functionality claims.
With Governor Gavin Newsom’s executive order halting the sale of all gas-powered cars in California by 2035 and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) currently planning to cut carbon emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, the number of EV charging stations simply not working may cause a huge upcoming problem. A CARB survey conducted earlier this year found that 44% of electric vehicle drivers reported that charging station operability and payment issues were major issues to charging. Other surveys have found similar numbers of potential electric car owners turned off on the idea of owning an electric car if there was no reliable network of charging stations.
The EV charging station study even said that “In order to achieve a rapid transition to electric vehicle driving, a highly reliable and easy to use charging infrastructure is critical to building confidence as consumers shift from using familiar gas vehicles to unfamiliar electric vehicles.”
A worrying tend for EV charging
Many transportation exports noted on Tuesday that the numbers are not dire but may point to a more worrying trend.
“If these Bay numbers kind of hold over nationwide, then that can be very concerning,” noted Aran Williams, an electric vehicle researcher of EV trends in Europe, North America, and Asia to the Globe on Tuesday. “A greater percentage of gas pumps are functional and they are usually serviced or repaired fairly quickly. Here, EV isn’t doing so hot.
“At the same time, the numbers are not as bad as they appear. Tesla isn’t in the survey, since they have different chargers, and their stations are usually more upkept. Also, many charge at home, at the office, when shopping, when parked somewhere like in a parking garage, or other places besides charging stations, so it’s not like gasoline or diesel where there is pretty much stations as the only option.
“But still, even with all that, many ev owners rely on these public stations, and with so many out of commission, this is a sign that trust in the vehicles could erode. It is definitely the future of vehicles, but there needs to be standards on keeping them open for consumers. California is basically putting the squeeze on residents to adopt to these vehicles in the next few decades, so it needs to be a two way street, meaning making sure that Californians with electric cars can have the same benefits of gas ones, including quick refills/charges of only a few minutes as technology improves and these pumps actually working.”
In a statement, the California Energy Commission (CEC) vowed to improve the EV charging situation, saying that California “is committed to and investing in improving charging access and reliability, and working with the charging industry, automakers, standards organizations, community organizations and other stakeholders to do so. We are already working with other state agencies and stakeholders to improve the customer experience at charging stations and increase access, especially for lower-income and disadvantaged communities.”
As of Tuesday, most charging stations have yet to respond to how they would be dealing with the massive EV charging station issue.