Study: Public Charging Issues May Short-Circuit EV Growth

The public vehicle-charging infrastructure has not kept pace with the growth in market share of electric vehicles (EVs). If anything, it is falling further behind, according to the recently released J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Electric Vehicle Experience Public Charging Study.

The firm contends that Tesla’s recent move to open Tesla Superchargers to non-Tesla owners could improve the situation, but such an effort might not be the answer that some suggest, as overall satisfaction continues to decline.

Despite an increase in public charging stations across the United States, customer satisfaction with public Level 2 charging has declined to 617 on a 1,000-point scale, which is 16 points lower than a year ago and the lowest level since J.D. Power’s study began in 2021.

Satisfaction with direct current (DC) fast chargers has declined even further, dropping 20 points to 654. More troubling, the firm asserts, is that satisfaction in both charging station segments has declined in nearly every attribute measured by its study.

Because consumer skepticism regarding public charging availability is the primary reason consumers reject EVs, this performance could prove to be a further hindrance to EV acceptance. “The declining customer satisfaction scores for public charging should be concerning to automakers and, more broadly, to public charging stakeholders,” said Brent Gruber, executive director of the EV practice at J.D. Power.

“The availability of public charging stations is still a critical obstacle, but it isn’t the only one,” Gruber stated. “EV owners continue to have issues with many aspects of public charging, as the cost and speed of charging and the availability of things to do while waiting for their vehicle to charge are the least satisfying aspects.

“At the same time, the reliability of public chargers continues to be a problem. The situation is stuck at a level where one of every five visits ends without charging, the majority of which are due to station outages.”

Tesla owners were relatively satisfied with the Tesla Supercharger network (745), but, when they went outside the network to use other public charging options, satisfaction declined (550).

“With greater adoption of the North American Charging Standard (NACS) pioneered by Tesla, it may provide a boost in fast-charging satisfaction among owners of EVs from other brands as they begin to use Tesla’s Supercharger stations,” Gruber said. “We’re monitoring whether the use of Tesla Superchargers by non-Tesla owners will affect satisfaction, but the move does help address charger scarcity and offer access to industry-leading reliable chargers.

“It’s just too early to tell if it can reach the satisfaction levels of Tesla owners who are already part of that fully integrated Tesla ecosystem.”

KEY FINDINGS … EV owners are increasingly dissatisfied with the amount of time it takes to charge their vehicles, according to J.D. Power. The attribute for speed of charging had the most significant negative effect on overall Level 2 satisfaction, decreasing 36 points year over year to 455.

Interestingly, those using DC fast chargers didn’t fare much better, as satisfaction with the speed of charging declined 30 points to 588.

According to the firm, public chargers must be placed in appropriate locations. The reasons EV owners cited for choosing a Level 2 or a DC fast charger and the time they spent at the charger clearly indicated that public chargers should be located where they will most effectively serve their customers.

Convenience was desired by both Level 2 and DC fast-charger users, but DC fast-charger users indicated a planned road trip was also a key reason for selection. DC fast-charger users spent approximately 30 minutes charging their vehicles, preferring to get back on the road as soon as possible.

“The data suggests that DC chargers, which charge faster, should be located along travel routes, while Level 2 chargers — essentially used for convenience charging — should be easily accessible near places where EV owners may already be visiting, such as retail venues and entertainment venues,” Gruber noted.

Non-charge visits remain an issue, according to J.D. Power, and results differed by geographic location. The study found that 20% of all users said they visited a charger but did not charge their vehicle. Reasons ranged from the charger being inoperable to long lines to use the charger.

EV owners in the Miami/Port St. Lucie/Fort Lauderdale area had the worst experience in this regard, with 35% of visits failing to result in charging. Meanwhile, Seattle/Tacoma, Denver/Aurora and Dallas/Fort Worth each had 29% of visits failing to result in a charge. The Cleveland/Akron/Canton area had the lowest percentage of failed visits with a charging failure rate of 12%.

“The results of this year’s study should be very concerning to all those involved in the transition from gas-powered vehicles to electric vehicles,” Gruber said. “Although the majority of EV charging occurs at home, public charging needs to provide a much better experience across the board — not just for the users of today, but also to alleviate the concerns of skeptical future customers. A lot of work is underway to address these issues, but there is certainly much more work to be done.”

RANKINGS … Volta ranked highest among Level 2 charging stations, with a score of 665. Tesla Destination (661) came in second followed by ChargePoint (618).

Tesla Supercharger ranked highest among DC fast chargers for a third consecutive year with a score of 739. It was the only DC fast charger brand to rank above segment average.

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