EVgo, one of the nation’s largest DC fast charging providers, seems to be coming around to the idea that while having more chargers would be nice, having reliably functioning chargers is more important at the moment. So it’s doing something that would be odd for most other companies and announcing its progress in fixing and upgrading its network.
As part of “EVgo ReNew,” the company’s plan focuses on “overall network performance and the holistic customer experience.” EVgo says it “upgraded, replaced, or decommissioned” charging gear at 120 of its more than 850 stations. It has also brought at least one 350 kW charger to nearly all its stations, claims to have cut its average station repair time in half over the last 12 months, and improved its repair parts inventory and customer service staffing. And EVgo says it will track “One & Done” success rates, measuring how many people are able to initiate a charging session on their first attempt.
EV charging reliability has been an issue for a few years now. It’s something we wrote (warned, really) about in 2022, and a JD Power study on the EV public charging experience last month showed it’s not getting better. EVgo rated a 569 out of 1,000 in that study, roughly midway between ChargePoint at 606 and Electrify America at 538, with all of them dropping from 2022. Tesla, meanwhile, with its nationwide network of Supercharger spots with first-mover placement advantage, rated 739 out of 1,000, unchanged from 2022.
This kind of deeply uneven charging reliability is why the government recently announced $100 million in funding for EV charger reliability grants. That money is part of nearly $5 billion earmarked to build fast-charging stations along highways, with a crucial 97 percent uptime requirement for the funding.
EVgo’s attempt at proving it can maintain a network, not just build one out, includes “customer education programs.” These range from a “Charge Talk” video series that seems like a great reason for EVgo executives to hang out together, to a more practical QR code campaign that offers how-to links for new or frustrated charging customers.
I recently took my first EV road trip and thereby used my first DC fast charger, which just so happened to be an EVgo station in a big shopping plaza. I had downloaded the EVgo app ahead of time, created an account, received a tap-to-pay account card, and even set up my car with AutoCharge+ so that after my first charge, my car should be recognizable to EVgo’s network, and future initiations and payments would be automatic.
After I’d parked my car and opened the charge port, I pushed a touchscreen button to start a session. The screen seemed to indicate it wanted payment. The app indicated my charge station was now unavailable, seemingly because I’d manually initiated a session at the screen. I tried plugging in the cable to see if I got more options, but the terminal still seemed to want a credit card. I tapped my EVgo account card, but nothing doing.
Finally, I paid a $3 no-account-just-credit-card charging fee, and the port started charging. I was surprised later when the charge cut off before I got back to my car, but that was because without the app connection, I didn’t know there was a one-hour limit at this station. On our return trip home, I stopped at the exact same charger, used the app to initiate the session before touching anything else, and managed to avoid the fee and track the charge. AutoCharge+ setup, however, failed twice before I gave up on it. At least all the hardware was working—at six or seven out of the eight stations, if I recall correctly.
I think about someone who has not spent nearly 20 years writing about technology trying to suss out an EV charging session for the first time, and it’s likely we have a long way to go in reducing the potential for EV charging pain.