J.D. Power EV Public Charging Study: High Satisfaction When It’s Free

Public charging station
EV owners are generally happy with public charging, says J.D. Power. Dissatisfiers are lines, glitches where the car won’t charge and the cost of public charging. Volkswagen

President Biden wants 500,000 chargers installed across the United States to build the EV infrastructure – and that would be great with today’s EV owners, according to an inaugural look at how satisfied American motorists are with public charging.

J.D. Power’s U.S. Electric Vehicle Experience Public Charging Study (EVX) finds EV owners generally pleased with the way currently available chargers operate, and owners also  pointed out key concerns: charging speed, occasional long lines, frequent outages and problems getting chargers to sync up and deliver power up once plugged in.

“Public Charging Key to EV Adoption”

“Public charging infrastructure is a key component in the overall adoption of electric vehicles by the broad population,” J.D. Power’s senior automotive analyst Brent Gruber said. “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.”

There currently are 43,514 charging stations in the U.S., according to the Department of Energy, with 105,671 plugs, serving the 2% of the market that is electrified. (The American Petroleum Institute says there “more than 150,000” gas stations.) The president’s goal—backed by most automakers, who would not be paying for them—is to increase the number of individual chargers to 500,000 by 2030. Charging at the fastest stations takes about 10 times as long as pumping a tank of gas.

The administration seeks $7.5 billion from Congress to expand the network, and a number of charger companies, including Chargepoint, EVgo and Volta, have or soon will go public to raise additional funds. But a study by AlixPartners estimates as much as $50 billion will be needed to fully build out the network.

Power’s Public Charging Study found EV owners still frustrated by the lack of places to plug in, especially once they get away from coastal areas, like California, where a large share of today’s chargers are located.

“One thing is clear,” said Power’s Gruber, “the more chargers that can be deployed, the better.”

The 6,647 owners included in the study expressed a variety of frustrations. These included not only a lack of places to plug in but the long lines they sometimes experience when they do find a charger. Meanwhile, 58% said they’ve experienced situations in which chargers either were out of service or wouldn’t power up once a vehicle was plugged in.

Dep’t of the Obvious: Motorists Prefer Faster Chargers

Satisfaction levels varied according to the type of chargers motorists had access to. The most common are Level 2 systems operating at 240 volts—which can take many hours or overnight to fully charge an EV. They scored an average 716 points on a 1,000-point scale. Owners gave an average 737 points to quick chargers (DC Fast Chargers, Tesla Superchargers) using 400 or 800 volts and up to 350 kilowatts. These can charge up some new models, such as the Porsche Taycan, in as little as 20 minutes, and most all EVs in an hour.

Not surprisingly, scores were higher for chargers where energy was available for free, the study found. Charging from home at current residential rates—13.7 cents per kilowatt hour, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration—combined with the efficient of electric motors, the cost per mile to drive is half to one-third as much as a similar gasoline-powered car. At the EV average of 30 kilowatts per 100 miles, a 250-mile trip would cost $10 for the energy; same trip in a 30 mpg gas-powered car would cost $27. But connection fees and kWh rates at private charging networks eat up much of the cost-per-mile driving advantage.

“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,” said Gruber.

Overall, Tesla’s Supercharger network was the highest-ranked, the study found, with EV owners also giving high marks to systems operated by Chargepoint and Volta.