Charging at Electrify America

By Paul Gipe

As part of its penance for the diesel-gate pollution scandal, Volkswagen is building a continent-wide network of DC fast charging stations for electric vehicles under the brand of Electrify America.

While still not up to the standards of Tesla’s Supercharger network, EA’s network comes closer than either ChargePoint or EVgo, EA competitors in the DC fast-charging game.

For example, EA has installed the most powerful chargers of any non-Tesla DC fast-charging network. EA stations range from 50 kW for a CHAdeMO connection to 150 kW and 350 kW kiosks for CCS connections. Other networks are dominated by 45 and 50 kW kiosks.

EA also has installed more kiosks per station than any other non-Tesla charge network. In urban areas, EA has installed four kiosks per station, while on highway corridors they have typically installed seven kiosks. Most other networks have installed only two kiosks per station and at best sometimes three.

For EVs using the CCS standard, cars can charge up to 350 kW. However, most mass-market EVs can’t take advantage of that charge level. The Chevy Bolt EV will charge at 55 kW and the Hyundai Kona will charge at 75 kW.

The cost and reliability of EA’s stations remains controversial. There are numerous reports that some of the kiosks at EA stations are not regularly in service. I visited the recently opened EA station in Bakersfield this week. Only two of the four kiosks were in service.

Payment for an EA charge session includes a session fee ($1) and a fee per minute based on the maximum charge rate of the vehicle. For EVs charging at less than 75 kW, the fee is $0.25 per minute. For EVs charging at 75 kW or more up to 125 kW, the fee is $0.69 per minute. The Hyundai Kona just falls into the second tier and pays $0.69 per minute to charge, or more than twice as much as a Chevy Bolt.

Another problem that has surfaced is EA’s discrimination against vehicles using the CHAdeMO standard. EA’s competitors deploy charging kiosks that serve both standards. Not EA. Most EA dispensers serve only vehicles with the CCS connection. EA does provide one dispenser with a CHAdeMO connection. However, it also has a CCS cable. A CCS enabled EV can pull up to the sole CHAdeMO dispenser and begin charging on CCS. If a CHAdeMO enabled EV, such as a Nissan Leaf, pulls up it will not be able to charge and will have to either wait or drive on to another station.

As is becoming more widespread, EA’s kiosks do provide credit card readers and users can pay by credit card. They don’t need to use EA’s app to charge.