Here’s What Happens When an EV Charging Station Fails Mid-Charge
It’s a scenario that prospective electric vehicle drivers fear. You plug into a public EV charging station, and after a loud bang, your EV appears dead. According to Car and Driver, at least three EV owners have endured this experience after Electrify America charging stations failed. Three failures are a slim fraction among millions of successful charging attempts. But the stories do show what can happen in the worst-case scenario.
Three EV owners left with dead cars after Electrify America chargers fail
There are three known incidents of public chargers rendering electric vehicles unusable. In separate events, a Ford Lightning, a Chevy Bolt and a Rivian R1T all died while using Electrify America (EA) EV charging stations. Each instance involved different variables and different outcomes from the others. Car and Driver’s reporting shares details of each event and responses from EA and the automakers.
Why did charging station failures kill the EVs?
According to Car and Driver, the first event occurred on November 27, 2022, involving a Ford Lightning truck. Ford and EA announced in a joint statement that an “isolated event while DC-fast charging” tripped one of the Lightning’s internal circuit breakers. This rendered the truck immobile.
Ford said the circuit breaker flip effectively protected the battery and saved the Lightning from destruction. Car and Driver states that Ford replaced the circuit breaker and returned the truck to its owner in complete operating condition.
The Rivian situation is similar to the Ford. Yet, fewer firm details are available, according to Car and Driver. In this case, EA states that an internal issue with its charging station caused the truck failure. Like the Ford, EA suspects the charging station problem tripped safety mechanisms that saved the Rivian’s core systems but temporarily bricked the truck.
Finally, the Chevy Bolt event involves murkier waters. Unlike the other two, Chevy’s own engineers have not been able to assess the vehicle.
Per Car and Driver, the service shop at a local Chevrolet dealership decided to replace the Bolt’s battery pack. The owners’ insurance provider consequently declared the Bolt totaled and now possesses the vehicle.
Chevy said that, given the opportunity, it would fully replace any tripped circuit breakers under warranty.
Electrify America offers reassurance after isolated incidents
Electrify America assured the reliability and continued progress of its charging network in a statement sent to Car and Driver:
“We regret the customers were inconvenienced in each of these cases, as the welfare and charging experience of our customers is of the utmost concern. In 2022 we had over six million charging sessions, and each situation is unique. Overall, we see very few vehicle immobilizations per million sessions. However, the resolutions of those issues are used to strengthen interoperability testing, component reliability standards, and continued over-the-air updates to the network.
“As with any technology, those improvements are part of developing and innovating, such as DC fast charging, during early stages of its growth trajectory.”Electrify America
The electric vehicle industry is entering its adolescent phase with government support for EV infrastructure expansion. With that, we can expect growing pains alongside the rapid expansion. As more drivers choose EV technology, the nation’s public charging network may encounter occasional problems like these.