The Wall Street Journal’s Rough Ride with Non-Tesla DC Fast Chargers

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Paying and shaking hands turned into a hassle, no doubt about it.

If you’ve delved into a few articles on electric car ownership, you likely heard that the go-to method for charging is at home, overnight, with a Level 1 or Level 2 charger. It’s usually the cheapest route, given that the charger comes bundled with the car, and home energy prices should beat those of public DC fast chargers.

But let’s face it, that plan doesn’t fly for everyone. Sometimes, you need a quick juice boost – whether you’re on a road trip or lacking a home charger, a scenario faced by many, according to a recent S&P Global Mobility study. In these moments, a DC fast charger is the superhero.

However, as you’ll witness in the video at the top of this page, the experience might not be as smooth as silk. In fact, it might downright stink, especially if you haven’t cluttered your smartphone with all the apps from different charging providers. The Wall Street Journal’s recent video showcases tech columnist Joanna Stern’s trials in recharging a Rivian R1T at 126 Non-Tesla DC fast charging spots across 30 locations in Los Angeles County.

Shockingly, over a quarter of them, a whopping 27%, were flat out broken. Either displaying an “Out of Service” message or adorned with caution tape and a piece of paper proclaiming their non-functionality.

Now, that’s a hefty chunk of chargers on the fritz, and it’s more than a mere inconvenience. Imagine relying on one of these and suddenly hitting a dead end on your trip because your EV’s charge is hanging by a thread. It aligns with a recent study that revealed overall satisfaction with US DC fast chargers has dropped compared to last year, despite a surge in investments.

But the misadventures didn’t stop there for Stern, a seasoned tech writer who recently spilled the beans on her own EV testing journey. Spotting an out-of-service charger is one thing, frustrating but straightforward. It’s a whole new level of headache when you get excited about an online charger, only to waste precious minutes trying to coax it into feeding your car some much-needed energy.

Paying at electric vehicle (EV) charging stalls can be a real headache. Stern found about 10% of the stalls had card payment issues. Picture this: a stall with a card reader boldly stating “Cash Only” – a confusing message, especially since you can’t actually pay with cash there.

Even when the chargers accept payment, there’s another hiccup. Some of them struggle to connect with the vehicle on the first try. Unlike the familiar gas-pumping routine, EV charging requires a perfect dance between the charger’s software and the car’s software. This often leads to unplugging and replugging the charging cable, crossing fingers for a successful attempt. But, let’s face it, sometimes it just doesn’t work. Rinse and repeat.

To tackle payment problems, many providers suggest using their smartphone app. But Stern notes, it’s not a walk in the park, especially if you’re renting an EV. One disgruntled user on YouTube shares the pain of downloading 30 apps just to rent an electric car – a pretty unbearable experience.

So, what’s the fix? Non-Tesla providers are on it, updating hardware to minimize connection hiccups. They’re also sending tech wizards to sites that are misbehaving, aiming to bring them back to life.

On the flip side, Tesla’s Supercharger network is the golden child. It boasts an impressive 99% uptime for DC fast charging in the US. But here’s the cliffhanger: will this reliability hold up as more EV manufacturers join the party next year? Drop your thoughts in the comments.

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