Electrify America is continuing to expand its electric vehicle charging network, with more than 800 stations and 3,500 individual chargers already online, many of which feature the all-important DC fast charging. With more people switching to EVs than ever before, EA is revealing a new charger design that features renamed power levels to try and simplify things for the user, but in reality may have made it all more confusing.
Different electric cars are able to accept different power levels of fast charging, with the current industry peak being 350 kilowatts. Instead of just highlighting the speed, EA's new monikers are Ultra-Fast for 150-kW chargers and Hyper-Fast for 350-kW chargers. The changes were made after extensive user research. The Ultra-Fast units are distinguished by a teal label and two lighting bolt icons, while the Hyper-Fast chargers get a green label and three lightning bolt icons. Those labels still show the charging speed, but it's not as prominent.
To me, this doesn't help to fix the problem. Without looking at both chargers side-by-side it's tough to distinguish between "Ultra" and "Hyper" and figure out the actual difference between the two, especially for a new EV driver. It can be frustrating to roll up to a charger in a car like a Porsche Taycan, which can charge at 350 kW, and see the fastest chargers being used by something like a Mercedes EQS, which can only charge at speeds of up to 200 kW. Because these new labels put less emphasis on the actual charging speed, if drivers don't know or pay attention to what speeds their car can charge at, the problem of the fastest chargers being taken up might get worse.
EA is also introducing new Balanced chargers that can provide both 350-kW and 150-kW charging speeds from the same cabinet, so drivers won't have to search as hard for a standalone 350-kW unit. If two EVs are charging at the same time and one needs less power, the charger will optimize the energy being dispensed to maximize the charge level to the slower car and send the rest to the faster model. Most new stations will feature the Balanced chargers, while some stations will continue to have some dedicated 350-kW units. Sorry, Hyper-Fast units.
While the names may be confusing, the next-generation charger design looks great. The stations look sleeker and seem to have better plug locations, and EA is making it easier to actually use them. The labels have been redesigned, and you can scan a QR code to access a guide on how to use the charger. Customers can also use an NFC reader to pay using their phone or mobile app. EA is replacing more than 300 of its early chargers with the new versions, with more updates on the rollout to come soon.