Automobiles

Electrify America Wants to Change the EV Charging Experience for the Better

Of course, all the convenience features in the world won't help if your charger is busted.

This sure beats an unshaded Walmart parking lot.
Electrify America

Charging an electric vehicle isn't what most people would describe as fun. In fact, most of the time, it's pretty crummy. You pull into a parking lot and try to find an unoccupied plug, then sit around in your car or, if you're lucky, wander around a mall for an hour. There's definitely room for improvement.

Electrify America -- aka Volkswagen's government-mandated efforts to offset emissions following the Dieselgate scandal -- is working on changing the charging experience in a few fundamental ways, according to a company announcement Thursday. Some of these changes are practical, others are experiential, but they all sound like generally good ideas.

For example, EA wants to put solar-powered awnings over its charging stations. This would have the dual benefit of providing some of the power used during charging and would help keep the weather off of people sitting in their cars. As someone who's had to do a lot of charging on a parking structure roof-deck during the Southern California summer, that seems like a great move. Alongside this, EA is looking at installing 150 more on-site battery storage systems, which work to take a little strain from the electrical grid during peak charging times. The solar awnings would help supplement these.

There are also plans to add waiting areas to future charging stations, which would provide a great alternative to sitting in your car. It's not clear if these will be feature-packed and chic like Audi's pilot charging hubs in Germany or like a nicer highway rest stop, but either way, I wouldn't frown upon vending machines and bathrooms.

"Electrify America will be reinventing the look and feel at many of our charging stations to meet and exceed the expectations of customers moving from a gas-powered vehicle to an electric lifestyle," said Giovanni Palazzo, president and CEO of Electrify America in a statement. "These new designs will help elevate the charging experience for our customers, building on the foundation of our ultra-fast and reliable coast-to-coast network."

Electrify America is also making a big to-do about its ultrafast next generation of chargers, but this is less of a selling point for us given our almost total dearth of luck getting the current crop of 350-kilowatt chargers to work correctly. Hopefully, EA can figure out its more severe infrastructure issues before it starts making things fancy, because a really nice charging station with nonfunctional chargers is just another parking lot.

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