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You would expect that the state leading the EV zeitgeist would have the best charging network, and it does. Unfortunately, the best ends up being far from the best. At least according to a Los Angeles Times staffer with her multitude of EV charging station problems. It is so bad she wants to trade for a hybrid instead.  

Which EV did the owner have?

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Mariel Garza has had her 2020 Kia Niro EV for three years. She loves everything about the car itself, aligning with all the good things hyped over the years about electrification. But when it comes to charging centers, the list of problems the LA Times Deputy Editorial Page Editor has faced is a really bad omen to the future of electric cars. 

Here are just some of the issues she and every EV driver in California, face. And this means it can be far worse beyond the Golden State borders. 

What problems are EV charging stations having?

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  1. Many parts of the state don’t have public fast chargers.
  1. At many charging stations, only a few chargers are operating. In fact, researchers in the San Francisco Bay area recently put the number of functioning charging stations at 75%. 
  1. Even with helpful apps, many times a charger is hard to find. This is attributed to a number of problems. Apps only give general locations. Many charging stations can be located in odd sections of parking lots, behind buildings, are only open during business hours, or in some instances available to surrounding businesses’ paying customers. 
  1. When chargers are all in use, or cars are parked that aren’t being charged, that means an unknown wait time until one becomes available. 
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  1. Sometimes you don’t know you’ve plugged into a charger that doesn’t work until you’ve begun charging. 
  1. Once you’ve successfully plugged into a charger, it can arbitrarily shut off before you have gotten the amount of charge you want, or need.
  1. Sometimes fast chargers aren’t very fast, increasing the amount of time you need to charge. This becomes especially problematic when you’re waiting in the sun next to a freeway because there is no overhead protection. 
  1. Because each charging company requires its own app, you must download and shuffle through several when the charging station you are sitting at has no functioning chargers.

What are some of the larger issues around charging?

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An Overlooked Area of Electric Car Ownership Could Hurt Adoption

A larger problem moving forward is that because charging companies want the most profit from the cost to build them, they naturally want to build in popular locations. The problem is rural areas become a dearth of charging stations. 

Some of this is what happens with early adopters of any new technology. Hiccups and issues with the technology itself, commonality problems, and because private companies own the charging stations, a profit versus public good dilemma. But consumers want convenience, which should be one of the advantages of EV ownership.

The federal government is ready to unleash 500,000 chargers nationwide. Let’s hope its planning is a lot better than the hit-and-miss vagaries we have now.