Survey: More Investment Needed for Public Charging Infrastructure

A tesla EV charging station
J.D. Power’s inaugural U.S. Electric Vehicle Experience Public Charging Study showed that satisfaction with public charging infrastructure has room to improve. // Courtesy of Tesla

J.D. Power, a global leader in consumer insights, advisory services, and data and analytics in Troy, released its inaugural U.S. Electric Vehicle Experience (EVX) Public Charging Study, which showed satisfaction with public charging options among battery electric vehicle (BEV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) has plenty of room for improvement.

Level two charging stations use a 240-volt power source, while the fast chargers use an up-to 600-volt power source. The study measured EV owners’ satisfaction with these two types of public charge point operators across ease of charging, speed of charging, cost of charging, ease of payment, ease of finding a location, convenience of a location, things to do while charging, safety at a location, availability of the chargers, and cleanliness of a location.

“Public charging infrastructure is a key component in the overall adoption of electric vehicles by the broad population,” says Brent Gruber, senior director of global automotive at J.D. Power. “Unfortunately, the availability of public charging is the least satisfying aspect of owning an EV.

“Owners are reasonably happy in situations where public charging is free, doesn’t require a wait, and the location offers other things to do — but that represents a best-case scenario. The industry needs to make significant investment in public charging to assure a level of convenience and satisfaction that will lure potentially skeptical consumers to EVs.”

Most owners are satisfied with the ease of public charging, with fast chargers scoring 737 and level two stations scoring 716, despite level two charging being much slower. J.D. Power says this indicates current EV owners understand how both types of chargers work, so they systems don’t tend to prompt issues.

Charging costs trailed overall satisfaction by a large margin. Free DC fast charging stations received a 706 but dropped to 673 when owners had to pay for the session. The impact is more pronounced at level two stations, with free charging receiving a score of 668 and dropping to 586 when owners had to pay.

Overall satisfaction with public charging availability came in at 668, which reflects relative satisfaction. The split numbers have fast charging stations at 720, and level two stations at 645, continuing the slight favorability of fast charging stations shown throughout the survey.

There was geographic variance in this category, showing North Central regions have above average charger availability, while the West South Central and Mid-Atlantic regions have below average availability.

The two most-cited problems were visiting a station with a charger that was out of service — 58 percent of those surveyed reported this issue — while 14 percent reported no chargers being available or too long of a line as a reason they were unable to charge.

“Building a better infrastructure starts with more collaboration among automakers, charge point operators, site locations, utilities and government at all levels,” says Gruber. “Each type of charger has its place in the EV public charging eco-system— whether its Level 2 for local drives or fast charging while on road trips. One thing is clear: the more chargers that can be deployed, the better.”

Tesla Destination ranked the highest among level two charging stations with a score of 689, while Volta came in second at 674, and ChargePoint came in third with a score of 660. Tesla Supercharger ranked highest among fast chargers with a score of 733.

The 2021 U.S. EVX Public Charging Study is driven by a collaboration with El Segundo Calif.-based PlugShare, a leading EV driver app maker and research firm. Survey respondents for the inaugural study included 6,647 owners of BEVs and PHEVs. The study was fielded from January through June 2021. Drivers who visited the charging location but didn’t charge their vehicle were asked why they decided not to charge.

PlugShare maintains one of the most comprehensive census’ of EV infrastructure in the world. They make the PlugShare app for iOS, Android and the web. It is in use by most EV drivers in North America and over one million EV drivers worldwide.

PlugShare also provides data tools, reports, custom consulting, and comprehensive research on EVs for automakers, utilities, charging networks, government, and the rest of the EV industry. It operates the world’s largest EV driver survey research panel, PlugInsights, now with over 63,000 members.