The Chicago Trip: A Seamless Experience
Rewind to two years ago: my road trip to Chicago in my EV was a revelation. Charging stations were abundant, with no significant waits or equipment issues. This journey was not just a trip but a testament to the ease and viability of EV travel. The freedom and simplicity of the experience were comparable to traditional gasoline-powered road trips, perhaps even better considering the environmental consciousness it brought.
The Thanksgiving Trip: A Strikingly Different Scenario
Fast forward to my recent trip from Baltimore to North New Jersey during the Thanksgiving rush. Armed with an 80% charge in my EV, I felt confident about the journey ahead. However, to ensure a smooth trip, I decided to top up at an Electrify America (EA) station near a Wal Mart. This decision brought to light the first of several challenges I would face.
Crowded Charging Stations: The Initial Hurdle
At the Wal Mart EA station, I was greeted by a sight familiar to many EV drivers during peak travel times – most chargers were either occupied or out of order. A small queue had formed, comprising drivers with varying degrees of anxiety and impatience. I decided to head to a Wawa gas station in Delaware, which the EA app showed as having two available chargers. But upon arrival, they too were occupied, with a line of EVs waiting their turn.
Network and Charging Woes: Adding to the Frustration
With over 50% battery remaining, I wasn’t too concerned yet. I proceeded to the next station over 20 miles away, hopeful for a better outcome. The app’s reassurances of availability soon turned into disappointment as the reality on the ground was quite different – only one charger was free. My attempts to use the BMW 2-year free plan and a separate EA plan from my VW ID4 were in vain due to network outages at the chargers. It was only after resorting to Android Pay that I managed to start charging.
The Return Journey: Repetition of Challenges
For my return journey, I aimed for a full charge. But again, at the Clifton station by Target, half the chargers were down. Two Chevy Bolts were slowly charging to 100%, and another Bolt was waiting. After an hour’s wait and a charging rate of 50kW, I settled for an 83% charge, giving me just enough range to get home.
Observing Tesla Superchargers: A Stark Contrast
Throughout my journey, I noticed several Tesla Supercharger stations, mostly less than 10% occupied and seemingly all in working order. Tesla drivers were able to quickly charge and get on their way, a stark contrast to my experience at EA stations.
Reflections on the EA Network
The EA network seemed particularly strained during my Thanksgiving trip. Not only were the stations crowded, but the charging process was also painfully slow, indicating the network was possibly crippled under high demand. Network communication issues at the EA chargers added to the frustration, rendering my free charging plans from manufacturers useless.
A Look at the Broader EV Charging Infrastructure
My experience highlights a critical issue in the broader EV charging infrastructure. While Tesla has built a reliable, fast, and widely available network, the same can’t be said for the rest of the EV charging infrastructure. The experience at Electrify America stations was far from ideal, marked by faulty equipment, long waits, and slow charging speeds. It’s clear that for EVs to become a mainstream option, the non-Tesla charging network needs to step up its game significantly.
The Role of Technology and Investment
The future of EV travel hinges on technological advancements and substantial investment in the charging infrastructure. There is a need for more high-speed charging stations, better network reliability, and real-time updates on charger availability. Furthermore, partnerships between EV manufacturers and charging network providers could play a pivotal role in enhancing the charging experience for EV owners.
Envisioning a Unified Charging Network
The day when Tesla’s network opens up to all EVs is eagerly anticipated. Such a move would mark a significant step towards creating a more unified, efficient, and accessible charging infrastructure. It would not only alleviate the pressure on networks like Electrify America but also offer EV owners more options, reducing the anxiety associated with finding a reliable charging station.
The Environmental Perspective
Despite the challenges, it’s essential to remember the environmental benefits of EVs. Each electric mile driven is a step towards reducing our carbon footprint and combating climate change. The transition to EVs is not just about convenience or technological advancement; it’s about making a sustainable choice for our planet.
The Road Ahead for EV Travel
My tale of two road trips in an EV underscores the growing pains of an evolving EV infrastructure. While there’s still a way to go in building a charging network that can cater to all EV drivers, the progress made so far is encouraging. I look forward to a future where EV road trips are as routine and stress-free as their gasoline counterparts.
Conclusion: A Journey Towards Sustainable Mobility
My experiences, while mixed, have reinforced my commitment to electric mobility. The road to a robust EV infrastructure is paved with challenges, but it’s a journey worth taking. As more people embrace EVs, the demand for an efficient and reliable charging network will continue to grow, paving the way for a greener, more sustainable future on the roads.