Public Electric Car Charging Adds to Allure of Driving EVs
America is a mobile society; freedom of mobility, to go where we want, when we want, is so important to our identity and our emotional well-being. So much so that, when it comes to shopping for a new car, our dreams of being able to hop in and drive for hours or days or weeks actually plays a role in our shopping process.
At the crossroads of deciding between a gasoline or electric vehicle, the question of how freely, and how quickly, we can charge, becomes an important consideration. It doesn’t matter that, for most of our lives, we use cars within fairly predictable patterns, and that even the lowest-range EVs can easily make it through a day before charging at home overnight. We want to know we can get in and just go. Which is why public charging infrastructure is so important to the widespread adoption of EVs across America. Being able to quickly access a charger, and then charge quickly, gives us the convenience we want and removes one potential barrier to going electric for that many more people.
Over 3,000 EV Charging Stations Nationwide
As we write this in 2022, Electrify America, a company that is actually part-owned by Volkswagen Group, offers one of the country’s fastest charging networks. With 700 charging stations across the country, and more than 3,000 individual chargers, doesn’t have the most chargers, but it does have the highest percentage of level 3 fast chargers, with over 3,000 of those 3,200 chargers having DC ability. And most charging stations have at least one 350-kW DC fast charger, which can push out electricity faster than most EVs can take it in.
What makes Electrify America interesting, though, is not just its charging network, which is one of the newest, and most future-proof, of the large networks. What’s interesting is how quickly it’s expanding – not just by building more charging stations, but also forging alliances with many automakers to provide free charging to purchasers of new vehicles.
The rapid growth of Electrify America’s network is impressive. In mid-2019, a year after the start of its $2-billion investment plan, the company had just over 400 charging stations; there are almost double that number now, almost all of them with 350-kW capability, and over 100 to be opened in the imminent future. The company has partnered with ChargePoint, another charging provider, on a “roaming” arrangement to allow users with accounts on either network to use each others’ chargers, and many of its new charging stations use solar power to generate a portion of the electricity being pumped into EVs.
From a convenience perspective, the company’s most remarkable move has been forming partnerships with car brands selling EVs, providing months’ or years’ worth of free charging for customers purchasing a new electric car. With an account being set up at the time of delivery, the buyer of a new EV can take advantage of free fast charging often simply by plugging their vehicle into an Electrify America charger – with “plug & charge” technology, the charger identifies the car and its user through a unique ID and starts charging immediately, without the need to fumble with a smartphone app or a credit card.
Electrify America Has Partnerships With Multiple Brands
How much charging Electrify America is offering with each individual brand is too long to list in detail here, but impressively, the company has made friends with car brands across the automotive spectrum – within the Volkswagen group of companies as well as those that are direct competitors. A short but incomplete list of free-charging partnerships includes Audi, BMW, Byton, Fisker, Ford, Genesis, Hyundai, Jeep, Kia, Lucid, Mercedes-Benz, Polestar, Porsche, Volvo, Volkswagen, and even Harley-Davidson, who now produce the LiveWire electric motorcycle.
The terms and conditions of how much free charging you get with the car you buy vary widely, so it’s best to check the manufacturer’s website for more details. But, one thing’s for certain: more fast charging, and free fast charging, will make it easier for all of us to consider an EV as our next vehicle.