Some popular consumer brands rock public EV charging. With plugs available for use outside their stores, they help to drive EV adoption, reduce range anxiety, and take tangible steps toward reaching corporate sustainability goals. But leading the EV pack isn’t always easy. Oftentimes these corporate powerhouses wind up being the subject of scrutiny, mistrust, or even blame.
As the rest of us take a wait-and-see approach to installing EV charging, certain companies have taken the risk–some for nearly the past 10 years. As a result, while they do reap benefits of being early adopters, they’re also feeling the pain of some real-life issues arising on the ground, which has made public EV charging a gamble.
Public EV Charging Rock Stars
Take a look at some of the programs these corporate powerhouses have undertaken to lead the public EV charging charge.
The above deck only scratches the surface of consumer brands that offer public charging. By doing so, most report higher revenues, more in-store visitors, and media attention.
Common Public Complaints About EV Charging
Does all this fanfare mean Dunkin and friends get all the glory? Not quite. Along with public EV charging comes a fair bit of public grumbling:
- from surrounding communities that see other priorities as more important,
- from EV drivers looking for convenience and cost savings,
- From non-EV drivers who are annoyed by fewer available parking spaces,
- from nearby business owners who don’t want drivers hanging around watching Netflix in their cars if they don’t plan on shopping,
- and even from legislators who oppose funding for infrastructure expansion.
To get a flavor of EV driver charging gripes that are directed toward the brands who’ve installed them, we explored various customer feedback platforms. Here are some common issues we noticed:
“Public charging stations are too close to my home.”
Some EV drivers wonder why they should bother using a donut shop or grocery chain’s plug when they live five minutes away. Why not hurry home and cook dinner while the car gets its juice instead? Further, EV owners complain that too many charging stations are clustered in dense, urban areas, when what they’d really find useful is being able to charge when they’re 20 miles or farther from home.
“Why is it free to charge at that store and not free at this one?”
EV owners love stores that offer charging. And yes, they are indeed more likely to pop into the store to peruse and buy while their cars charge, even if they don’t need anything in particular. But they’re annoyed with the businesses that charge for a charge (sorry) when a similar store a few blocks down the road offers charging for free. What gives?
“Not enough plugs causes annoying traffic jams in parking lots.”
New EV owners may be springing up at a faster rate than businesses can handle. Is infrastructure expansion lagging? If so, that means more charging is needed. In some places, EV drivers deal with long lines to use public chargers, and everyone suffers with clogged parking lots. Until public charging is solved, folks continue to rely on charging at home.
“Getting ICEd is the worst!”
Cars that run on Internal Combustion Engines (ICE), i.e., regular vehicles, aren’t supposed to be parked in EV-restricted parking spots that are outfitted with chargers. Nevertheless, ICE drivers either don’t notice posted signage prohibiting them from parking there, or they ignore the no-parking signs altogether. When an EV spot is blocked and a driver can’t juice up, they’re ICEd. This is a major and rather common frustration, and it’s not clear who’s in charge of fixing it.
“Charging stations with faulty wiring could pose a threat to safety.”
EV owners may still carry distrust of public chargers, especially after learning of explosions like this one that took place in New Zealand a few months ago, where the front panel of the station’s unit blew off and damaged the car it was charging.
“Broken or damaged chargers are useless, especially when no one knows how to fix them!”
When drivers pull into a store’s lot expecting to charge but discover the station is out of service, it’s a major disappointment that could leave them stranded. It’s worse when they have to call a service number that’s posted on the unit and end up getting a recorded message instead of a human on the other end, or if they have to ask for help inside a restaurant or store where a busy manager isn’t trained to fix charging stations and doesn’t have time to address their concerns.
These are just some of the complaints we uncovered, but they’re important issues to consider for business owners thinking about installing EV charging as well as for their strategic partners.
What can consumer brands, electricity providers, EV and battery manufacturers, and unit installers do to alleviate some of these concerns?
How will the next decade of EV infrastructure change to meet consumers’ needs?
We won’t know the answers to these questions for some time. What we do know for sure right now, though?
Without the Dunkins and Targets and Ikeas of the world being willing to take the risk of making public charging available, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Thanks to them for leading the public charging charge.