I’m an EV proponent. The more EVs on the road the better. There’s a hitch, though. The more EVs that hit the road, the worse the charging infrastructure reliability seems to get.
Electrify America had a great buildout but bad follow-through
I’ve been driving an EV since the dawn of commercial electric cars. That’s actually not a long time. A little more than 10 years. But it’s plenty of time to become an expert on the charging infrastructure in a city (and state) with high EV adoption. That would be Los Angeles.
Electrify America has been building out its charging network across California and Los Angeles at a furious pace. It’s now the public Level 3 fast-charging station of choice for the majority of non-Tesla EV owners in Los Angeles. And I presume the U.S. as a whole.
For example, as of early 2023, in Santa Clarita (a Los Angeles suburb) there are three separate Electrify America locations (gas-car analogy: think three gas stations). Only a few years ago there were none.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that most of the time — based* on my experience — at least half of the chargers are down. It’s a crap shoot every time you try to “fill up.”
Imagine if every time you went to the gas station, it was a 50-50 proposition that the pump would work. And imagine that sometimes (not so rarely) none of the pumps worked.
Take last night…
The following is an all-too-typical example. Last night (as of the time I wrote this), I went to an Electrify America Walmart location in Santa Clarita with 6 chargers.
Most of the chargers appeared to be working. I hooked up to a new “Hyper-Fast” charger (recently installed) and prayed. To little avail. I was getting a charge but at a rate barely above Level 2 charging rates. That means I would have to sit there for hours for a full charge.
So, I called Electrify America support and explained the problem. The support person recognized that Level 2 charging rates on a Hyper-Fast 350 kW charger was a problem. She rebooted the charger and I tried again. Same thing.
So, I decided to go to another Electrify America location in Stevenson Ranch (another part of Santa Clarita).
Out of 4 chargers, only one was working. I got a charge at Level 3 rates but when another customer showed up, I watched him try all three of the other “available” chargers and strike out. So, he had to wait for me to finish my charge.
I could go on and on but I think you get the picture….this is not the exception but the rule.
(In another recent example over the Christmas holiday, I tried to charge at an Electrify America charging location in Century City Los Angeles: all four chargers were down.)
It’s not entirely bad news
I have to give Electrify America credit where credit is due. There is an Electrify America charging station in the tiny town of Mojave, Calif. (in the Mojave Desert) that always seems to work (at least when I go there).
That’s really important because when I go there (most recently, two weeks ago) it’s do or die, charge or perish: if I can’t get a charge, I would have to search for an available wall socket at a local building.
So, it’s not all bad news and there are days when all of the chargers at a given Electrify America charging location appear to be working but that’s pretty rare these days.
I reached out to Electrify America (weeks ago) for comment but have yet to receive a response. That said, I’ve spoken to support people at Electrify America fairly often and they’ve always been polite and helpful. But that doesn’t fix the problem.
*I use Electrify America chargers frequently in Los Angeles. In the last few months, 3-4 times a week.