With governments across North America looking to electric vehicles as a cornerstone of their energy and climate strategies, reliable public charging is emerging as a key decision point for drivers considering whether to trade in their gasoline-powered cars.
While most EV owners can and do charge at home, charging on the go is still a necessity for many. But 21% of respondents to a Pollution Probe survey said charging points they attempt to use are often out of service, Electric Autonomy Canada reports.
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Similarly, a 2023 J.D. Power survey of EV drivers in the U.S., cited by Bloomberg, revealed that 21.4% of respondents were unable to charge at a public station because it was offline or out of order. In the UK, live tracking by Zapmap Ltd. found that approximately 8.5% of the country’s public chargers were out of order at any time.
There are at least as many reasons for these public chargers being offline as there are private charge port mobile apps, Bloomberg notes. Everything from severe weather, to rapid technological change, to inadequate maintenance, theft of component parts, and vandalism. “Parts break, information screens freeze, payment systems malfunction,” the news agency writes. “Copper thieves steal the cords. Vandals damage charging plugs or, in one infamous instance, stuff them with ground meat.”
In a bid to overcome these difficulties [but seriously…ground meat??—Ed.], companies like ChargePoint Holdings Inc., sacrifice upwards of 3,300 chargers per year to rigorous lab tests designed to simulate the wear and tear caused by repeated use, the abuse of rain, wind, and snowstorms, and the impacts of blunt force.
“If the future of mobility is electric,” the Canadian Standards Association Group said in a 2022 report cited by Electric Autonomy, “it is crucial that governments, charging network operators, and utilities work together to build a Canada-wide EV charging network that is equitable, accessible, and reliable.”
Both Canada and the U.S. are banking on exactly that pathway to achieve their climate goals. Late last year, Environment and Climate Minister Steven Guilbeault unveiled a long-awaited federal mandate that calls for electric vehicles to account for 20% of new car sales by 2026, 60% by 2030, and 100% by 2035. And Bloomberg says U.S. President Joe Biden has allocated US$7.5 billion to charging infrastructure with the goal of “convincing every American driver to go electric.”