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Decaying Level 2 public charging infrastructure

vanjwilson

Member
May 12, 2021
55
59
Charlotte, NC
My wife has had an electric car for over 2 1/2 years, and I've had my Tesla MY for over 3 months, and I usually take the opportunity to plug in at public Level 2 chargers when I'm out and about, unless my SOC is pretty high.

Just over the last few months, I've noticed a couple of trends.
  1. Many free Level 2 chargers that have been around for a while are breaking and not getting fixed. I suppose there's not a lot of impetus to fix something that's not creating a profit or even covering its cost. However, if the charger was put up for "marketing" or to create good will to begin with, it seems like the owner would fix it, or at least remove it, so it doesn't look like a "broken window".
  2. Several charging companies that are new to my area (Sema Connect, EV Connect) have installed Level 2 chargers that require payment. However, I have had no luck in getting any of those to work, even though I've been charged. I've called their customer service lines each time, and the reps have tried to be helpful but every time it seems to be that the owner of the location has not set their systems up correctly. (The amounts billed are small, minimum charges of less than $1.00.)
In the first case, I don't just want free electricity. If a business offers an amenity, and I accept their offer, it should work, or at least get fixed in a reasonable amount of time. (2 different locations I frequently pass have been broken for over a month.)

In the second case, I have not really needed a charge at those for-pay chargers yet, but if I or someone ever did, it is the sort of pain that is bad publicity for electric cars in general. I have paid for Level 2 charging before, both with ChargePoint and EVGo, so I don't think it's operator error.

I realize this sounds like I'm just venting, or worse, ranting. I'm posting this because I am interested to know if this is just a run of bad luck for me, or if others have noticed these phenomena of neglected or poorly managed Level 2 chargers. I'm worried that this will create bad press for EVs as more and more normal folks are considering buying one.
 

TexasDuke

Member
Mar 15, 2018
118
109
North TX
In Texas, I’ve also noticed all of the Lv2 chargers installed 7+ years ago have had their screens go blank because of sun exposure over the years. The ones I’m talking about generally are older Blink chargers that are not free, but aren’t used a lot. I’m sure we’ll start seeing local regulators start requiring certain actions on these installs, but probably not for another 3 - 4yrs at their current pace. (My random tax paying thoughts.) 🤓😜
 
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srs5694

Active Member
Jan 15, 2019
1,263
1,558
Woonsocket, RI
Here in Rhode Island and eastern Massachusetts, I've had few such problems. A few years ago, in fact, most ChargePoint L2 stations were upgraded from older to newer models. I've seen ChargePoint units go down, and they're usually repaired -- maybe not as quickly as I'd like, but within two or three months. That said, there certainly are troublesome units, like this one at a Walgreens in Foxborough MA, which has been non-functional for years. The problem units are the exception rather than the rule, though. Recently, I've seen Volta units appearing at Stop & Shop supermarkets and Blink units going in at Burger King and McDonald's restaurants, so L2 charging is expanding. So is DC fast charging; ChargePoint, in particular, has added several new DC fast charging stations in the area in the past year or two.

One other point is that all infrastructure eventually ages and needs to be repaired, replaced, or abandoned. Some of the earliest EV charging stations are old enough that they're at the point where their owners must decide what to do with them. Inevitably, some of these will be abandoned or removed rather than repaired or replaced, because they were ill-placed to begin with or because things have changed (stores go out of business, etc.). Covid probably hasn't helped with this, since it's put a strain on local retail outlets. Similar things happen to gas stations, supermarkets, etc. It's not surprising to see this with EV charging facilities.
 
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RTPEV

Active Member
Mar 21, 2016
1,038
1,213
Durham, NC
I think you're right on...many free chargers were put in as a result of an initial push back when the LEAF and Volt came out and there were all kinds of grants available to put in charging stations. Unfortunately they were not usually sited very wisely, and the hosts for the most part have had no interest in maintaining them. Even places like Whole Foods that specifically put them in (likely driven at the corporate level) to up their "green" cred seem to have no interest at the local level in making sure they work and aren't continually ICEd.

Fortunately that initial wave of L2 chargers, particularly given their siting, is becoming less and less needed as modern EVs have ranges that don't require L2 charging like those early LEAFs did. Obviously L2 chargers at apartments, workplaces and hotels will continue to be critical, but all the ones sitting in front of town halls are probably fine to just wither away.

Hopefully new EV owners will be quick to discover the ability of Plugshare to filter out poorly rated charging stations so they never even come across those problematic ones.
 

srs5694

Active Member
Jan 15, 2019
1,263
1,558
Woonsocket, RI
Fortunately that initial wave of L2 chargers, particularly given their siting, is becoming less and less needed as modern EVs have ranges that don't require L2 charging like those early LEAFs did. Obviously L2 chargers at apartments, workplaces and hotels will continue to be critical, but all the ones sitting in front of town halls are probably fine to just wither away.
Agreed. IMHO, the best places for public (or semi-public) L2 EVSEs are at workplaces, apartments/condos, and perhaps places where people routinely spend at least an hour, like parks and movie theaters. Public charging at malls, supermarkets, libraries, restaurants, etc., is better implemented as DC fast charging. Even fairly slow DC fast charging can do a lot of good at such places for people who lack L2 charging at home. One or two half-hour sessions on a 50kW station can cover a good part of an average driver's weekly charging needs, but to do the same with L2 EVSEs would take several hours. I, for one, would have a hard time cobbling together enough L2 charging time away from home to handle my weekly driving even if L2 EVSEs were ubiquitous.
 

vanjwilson

Member
May 12, 2021
55
59
Charlotte, NC
... Public charging at malls, supermarkets, libraries, restaurants, etc., is better implemented as DC fast charging. Even fairly slow DC fast charging can do a lot of good at such places for people who lack L2 charging at home. One or two half-hour sessions on a 50kW station can cover a good part of an average driver's weekly charging needs, but to do the same with L2 EVSEs would take several hours. I, for one, would have a hard time cobbling together enough L2 charging time away from home to handle my weekly driving even if L2 EVSEs were ubiquitous.
I've had a similar thought. Getting 3 kW while shopping for half an hour just maybe makes a shopping trip energy-neutral, but even slow DC fast charging, like a lot of older DC fast chargers, or Tesla urban Superchargers, would be a boon for EVs owners who can't charge where they live or work.
 
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