Electrify America Needs Some Big Improvements In US Southeast

Cars
BMW i3 Electrify America, Cynthia Shahan | CleanTechnica

Published on September 30th, 2020 |
by Cynthia Shahan

September 30th, 2020 by  


Photo courtesy Electrify America.

I drive a short-range EV long distances. It takes more time, more days and nights, but it works. I routinely drive what might be a one-day trip in a Tesla or a gasoline car in two or three days. I have done one particular route 5 times, relying on Electrify America stations and a few EVgo stations. I rely on Electrify America simply because the EVgo infrastructure in my part of the country is quite incomplete. For this reason, after the first trip, I gave a thank you to Electrify America. I could not make this trip with EVgo stations alone.

It is important to remember that EV infrastructure is still evolving. Infrastructure will continue to improve. #Patience.

On the other hand, it seems EVgo stations are a lot smoother to use. I find they work immediately, on the first try. A full charging session takes 30–40 mins. It is less time consuming to use them often simply because they are more customer friendly — in the sense that they work right off the bat, without the need to call customer service, as is so often the case at Electrify America stations on the “EV Charging Corridor” along I-95. This has happened to me (for 2 years a least) on 100% of my trips in or out of Florida.

Pricing — Electrify America vs. EVgo

A speedy EVgo station at a friendly Spinx gas station in South Carolina. This station helped me after a failed attempt to use a nearby EV charger.

Like my battery prefers slower “level 2” chargers because they do cause too much battery stress, my bank prefers those less expensive slow chargers as well. In general, fast charging is considerably more expensive than “normal” EV charging, and I’m aware this is because fast chargers cost a lot of money, but my EVgo bill shocked me a bit after my most recent trip. I am not comparing it to gas prices. It fares better than fossil fuels. I am simply not used to using the more expensive fast chargers.

Electrify America has new pricing and plans for EV charging, mostly charging 43¢/kWh now or charging 31¢/kWh if you pay a $4 monthly fee. In places where it does charge by the minute, the company says that it has lowered prices, and they now start as low as 12¢ a minute. You have to explore a specific EVgo station to find EVgo pricing, and the result along my route is considerably higher than Electrify America’s, typically 35¢ a minute.

BMW i3 Electrify America, Cynthia Shahan | CleanTechnica

My plan stays the same regardless, due to limited options —  a mixture of EV charging stations.

On this familiar 2 or 3 day trip I make in the US Southeast, I have had to voice my dissatisfaction with Electrify America’s station to its customer service staff multiple times. They listened to me for more than a year of frustrating complaints. I can say at least that Electrify America’s customer service is 100% polite, tolerant, and helpful. I’ll come back to that in a moment, but an important thing to note in this pricing section is that there are also time costs, and due to so much trouble at Electrify America stations, I prefer EVgo ones.

Chargers Pulled Offline En Masse

The news regarding this Electrify America route lately is that Electrify America shut down all of its chargers for maintenance during one of the busiest weekends of the year for road trips. Trust me, I know the repairs were long overdue. (I wonder how much my repeated calls and complaints about the stations played into the overdo work. I was surely not the lone caller, though.) Nonetheless, upset does not even cover finding out that the trip you’re on for the holiday weekend is no longer possible … in the midst of it.

More of the response from Electrify America:

“The company is taking these major actions to improve charger performance on the East Coast. To allow EV drivers to plan accordingly, we were proactive about showing availability of charging sites on our travel app and PlugShare. We recognize the challenges this may pose over a long weekend for our customers. We are committed to upgrading and re-energizing these charging sites as soon as possible.

“We regret any inconvenience to our customers. …

    • This work is currently underway and will continue for approximately 12 weeks.
    • Currently there are 19 stations that are under refurbishment and two are already operational. (Waterloo, NY and Cheektowaga, NY).
    • Drivers can expect the stations to be inaccessible for about 2 to 3 weeks once work commences at a site.
    • Station that have not commenced refurbishment will continue to be operational and charging will be complimentary to the driver during this period.
    • Electrify America will proactively identify planned upgrade actions in advance on the Electrify America Mobile App and on PlugShare.
    • EV drivers are asked to check the Electrify America Mobile App or PlugShare to identify the status of the charging stations affected by these performance upgrade actions.”

Yes, it is true — if you look at the app, all the wrenches showed. But some customers certainly did not see the efforts as very proactive. They did not get notifications that the whole corridor would be shut down.

I am so happy I left in late August for the last trip and was not traveling during the most recent holiday weekend.

Electrify America, Cynthia Shahan | CleanTechnica

Before the last trip, I wondered, is Electrify America finally responding to my complaints? However, more frustrations — perhaps worse — came about due to Electrify America not adequately preparing EV drivers for the service shutdowns last Labor Day weekend. It prompted an uproar of exasperation.

Broken Chargers For Months

Long before the official Labor Day weekend shutdown for repairs, I arrived at this completely malfunctioning group of chargers in early July, without any notice of the problem.

That was back in late August. Six weeks later, it was still not working. Both times, I ended up slow charging down the street and booking a hotel. It looks like it is working now. I wonder.

Did the glitches find final repair? Were they fully and adequately upgraded?

When I was using them, the many glitches added at least half an hour onto each charging stop — even if the charging, once started, only took 20–30 minutes itself.

So, after all of that, when deciding on EVgo vs Electrify America, what do I consider? Electrify America stations are easier to find, generally just off the highway, and cheaper. EVgo locations are more reliable and functional, though. The best charger for the moment depends on the needs of the moment.

Canopies Would Help

In the glaring sun of Florida, talking on the phone with Electrify America customer service while moving from one frozen charge to another and needing to use the facilities, it’s hard to keep one’s tone civil. It’s difficult to keep patience when having to explain yet again that you do know how to use the chargers and you have been using your app correctly. The problem is not that you need instructions, it’s that you need functioning chargers. There should at least be a quicker way to get to the point where you can say “please reset the charger” and it is done. All the while, looking at faint screens in the glaring sun just pushes on one’s patience.

Below is undoubtedly what Electrify America needs in sunny states such as Florida, and surely also in cold and pouring rain. It’s nice to see Electrify Canada getting these, and hopefully they will soon come to Florida!

This is undoubtedly what Electrify America needs in sunny states such as Florida so that you can see the screens more clearly in the middle of the day. Image courtesy of Electrify Canada.

The Good Parts of Electrify America

It’s true — once you get Electrify America chargers on, they work great. Also, as noted above, they are easy to find and there are several charging ports. If you read that article linked above, you can see that I was thrilled with the Electrify America chargers when I first discovered and started using them.

Hopefully they will all start working well again, and hopefully Electrify America will get better at planning large repairs and notifying users of them.

BMW i3 Electrify America

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About the Author

Cynthia Shahan started writing after previously doing research and publishing work on natural birth practices. (Several unrelated publications) She is a licensed health care provider. She studied and practiced both Waldorf education, and Montessori education, mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings born with spiritual insights and ethics beyond this world. (She was able to advance more in this way led by her children.)