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An open letter to anyone installing EV charging stations

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Dear, (Insert: Electrify America, EVgo, ChargePoint, etc., or anyone else installing EV charging stations):

Do better. I’m not an EV owner. But I’m not a hater either. I’m a journalist who’s trying to figure EV shit out and help others do the same. But the current charging infrastructure is making it really hard for me to be an EV advocate.

You see, I’m in the firm camp that electric vehicles don’t have a range problem, 220 miles is plenty. But when you have more than 160 miles between two fast-charge stations on a major interstate, that’s a problem.

Especially when EVs are in their nascent phase and 320 miles is more like 160 miles in the current sub-zero temperatures most of the United States is experiencing right now. Then, when you add in the fact that a 350 kW charge station is only delivering 49 kW when an EV battery is at less than 50%, that’s a problem.

It’s a huge problem.

With a lot of government and private moneys being dumped into building a more robust infrastructure, I’d like to offer some thoughts for your consideration as you move forward installing EV charging stations.

Stop putting chargers in the back of big box lots. I know you probably think this is convenient because there’s a lot of space, and people can charge while shopping. But here’s the thing, all those people who are shopping in a big box store and own an EV probably have an at-home charger. They don’t need to charge when they are running in for a half hour to buy a bulk bin of pretzels. No, the people who need to charge are the ones who are driving 197 miles on their way home for Christmas or taking a road trip with the fam. The last thing they want to do is sit in a boring big box parking lot for an hour to add 40% charge.

Starbucks, Cracker Barrel and Panera are the way forward. So, where do you put charging stations for people who actually need them? Someplace they’ll spend time, and someplace with WiFi. I know Volvo has a deal with Starbucks to install chargers. It’s not happening fast enough. But that’s definitely a place people can spend at least 20 minutes, which, if stations are working properly, is enough time for ultra fast-charge vehicles to go from 10% to 80%. I just spent 20 minutes in a Starbucks drive thru just getting a beverage before going to sit in a Walmart parking lot for another 20 minutes. That’s just plain wasteful.

Bathrooms. Srsly. You’ll argue someone could go into the big box store and use the bathroom there, but not after its closed. Sure, Starbucks and Paneras and Cracker Barrels close, but they’re usually open longer than a big box store. Without bathrooms, EV owners somewhat ironically might find themselves at a gas station to pee, which means they’ll probably be guilted into spending money at the convenience store. So, if you aren’t going to put charge stations in places near a gas station or food stop, maybe think about putting them at Rest Areas. You know, another place people stop on a road trip.

Think of safety. In the charging stations I’ve been to recently, I’ve been concerned about the overall lack of safety they offer. Think about it. They’re often situated in an isolated location in the corner of a parking lot with nary a soul nearby. Asking someone to go sit in said isolated location, alone, in a $50k to $150k vehicle is like asking someone to walk down a deserted street at midnight wearing the Hope Diamond with a sign that says “rob me.” Most criminals look for opportunity, and an expensive vehicle in a deserted location with a lone occupant is a sitting duck. What? You say your charging stations have cameras? Yeah, they do, but a fat lot of good that will do when the crime is in process. And if the robber is wearing a mask or the camera isn’t HD, recording the incident won’t help. I was carjacked in front of a low-res camera (not at an EV charging station), so I know this from experience.

Include windshield cleaners. The windshield washing wands are something I didn’t know I’d miss until I missed them. On my recent drive from Chicago to Indianapolis, it was blowing snow in sub-zero temperatures and my windshield was caked with ice and salt. Since I was in an EV, there’s no engine to keep my hood clear of snow or, apparently, keep the windshield washer fluid from freezing. So, when I pulled up to the charging station in Lafayette, Ind., my windshield and radar sensors used for adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and emergency braking were a salty mess. So, I looked for the wands you see by gas pumps, hoping to clear some of the gook. And, well, they weren’t there. It’s a stupid, silly thing that would actually be really helpful to have.

The bottom line on EV charging stations

I get it. I know we’re “just at the beginning” of the EV era. I’ve heard the analogy over and over that it’s like the early days of the gas-powered vehicle when there weren’t gas stations on every corner. I really do get it.

However, as we enter into this phase of encouraging (not forcing) people to buy electric, we need to do better.

I’d like to think we know more than we did back in 1885 when the first gas station was built – more about people’s habits and desires. More about running water and the need to pee in a private space with a locked door. We know more. We have more resources. We can do more.

So, I’m going to say it again: Do better.

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Jill Ciminillo

Jill Ciminillo is the Managing Editor for Pickup Truck + SUV Talk as well as a Chicago-based automotive writer, YouTube personality and podcast host, with her articles and videos appearing in outlets throughout the U.S. Additionally, she co-hosts a weekly radio show on car stuff for a local Chicago station. Previously, Jill has been the automotive editor for both newspaper and broadcast media conglomerates. She is also a past president for the Midwest Automotive Media Association and has the distinction of being the first female president for that organization. Jill is also currently a juror for the North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY).

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55 Comments

  1. Jeff Byrne December 24, 2022

    One thing to add…

    Can you make the stations pull through like a gas pump? Charger ports are on the back passenger side, front driver side, rear center, front…you get it now? Often pulling up to a station trying to find the 350 that’s open that has a long enough cable to reach my charge port- I feel like a dog in that circling I am going to lay down loop that goes on way too long.

    Reply
    1. DL December 25, 2022

      Excellent suggestion, especially for the growing number of EV owners who are using them to tow small trailers. Backing in simply doesn’t work with a trailer attached!

      Reply
    2. Efficient EV December 28, 2022

      Stop crying. learn to accentuate the positive. Most of us EV owners charge at home. And we know where the charging station are. At least we have Chargers here in the U.S.A.

      Reply
      1. ElectricSprocket December 29, 2022

        “Stop crying” – this article was written to help address some of the issues with how we currently build the EV infrastructure that will support a full transition to EVs in the future. Something that most EV owners are excited to see coming and are pushing by purchasing EVs. I don’t understand how telling someone to “stop crying” about the problems with EVs is going to help matters. I’ve chatted with a few folks from the major manufacturers of EV chargers and mentioned many of these same issues. They told me that the plan is to get EV stations to be put in just like gas stations, with the only real difference being that the pumps will be replaced with ultra fast chargers. So, the future will tell for sure but it looks like these issues will be resolved within a decade.

        Reply
    3. Dave December 28, 2022

      Yes!!

      Reply
    4. Alex December 30, 2022

      Jill, I am impressed with your credentials and work history. It appears that you have lots of experience and knowledge about the auto industry, including EV since you must have one. I am not sure what kind of EV you have but it is DEFINITELY not a Tesla. Your comments are well written but also off the marks in many ways.
      Agreed: Why are all the fast chargers near Walmart (or the likes). People don’t use public charges when they drive in town. The cost is 250-350% higher than charging at home. Many chargers are out of order; Most of them are not fast chargers. I can go on and on with more reasons. Public chargers are needed near the interstate and major highway/attractions, NOT near homes. Many apartments where EV owners will live (ie, uptown new apartments) have either paid or free chargers. Homeowners including Condo and THs all have charger at home.
      Disagreed: Your comments showed you are not familiar with Tesla superchargers (Tesla is 65% of ALL EV sold in USA). Everything you suggested, except the windshield service, have been covered by Tesla SC network. As for windshield, I am in the South so no snow, but I do carry one in the trunk in case I need it. Tesla app and on-screen charger locator shows all the services within walking distance of the particular Supercharger. Almost all of them have nearby rest room, in a well lit area, have QSR or coffee shops.

      The EV charging infrastructure is indeed not up to par to handle the increase EVs on the road, and your concerns are greatly appreciated. However, I’d suggest you do more research by talking to Tesla owners like myself so you can properly address this important issue next time.

      Reply
    5. Avatar photo
      Jill Ciminillo January 3, 2023

      Great suggestion. This is also imperative for people who are towing …

      Reply
  2. Bill Barrett December 24, 2022

    For roadtrippers the stations need to be as close to interstate interchanges as possible. Dispenser reliability needs to be improved along with repair response. With car vendors giving free charging stations need to be expanded and reliability improved.

    Reply
  3. Gerry December 25, 2022

    Putting them in the parking lot of every grocery store, big box, and mall makes sense. There are those who will not have chargers at home for some time because HOA and condos are slow to move, plus 40% of people rent so the landlord may not want to add a charger to their rental.

    There should be multi-tier charging, dcfc of 250kw+ for those travelling needing a quick charge , and standard level 2 chargers within the mix for those local who just need to top up from the days errands. Not everyone needs to charge within 30 minutes and those chargers cost a lot more.

    Their should be a focus on stores located within 3 miles of major highways, but this is usually the case already.

    Reply
    1. Craig December 27, 2022

      Look to see if your state has a “Right to Charge” as a homeowner. Here’s VA for example: https://energynews.us/2021/04/27/virginia-law-cleared-a-path-for-condo-owners-to-install-charging-stations/

      Reply
  4. Larry Becque December 25, 2022

    The writer of this article has certainly not tried the Tesla Supercharger user experience. Elons team figured all this out long time ago. Soon Tesla will open their chargers to other makes but if charge port is not on the left rear may be problematic.

    Reply
    1. DL December 25, 2022

      How true, plus Tesla does a very good job of maintaining their SuperChargers, unlike all the other CCS companies.

      Reply
    2. J December 28, 2022

      Ah yes, our god Elon has solved all this. Which is why there is only a single supercharging station in all of California that has window wipers and a bathroom. And thanks to him, I’m definitely not pissing five feet from the supercharger at most stops.

      Reply
    3. Henry Armour December 28, 2022

      Tesla superchargers locations are a good start but not perfect. Some are miles off of the interstate or in a densely populated downtown. When I’m on a road trip I want my charging stops to be close to an interstate exit. Also, the distance between charging stations along the interstate should probably be about 125 to maybe 175 miles. Having the ability to skip a charging stop along an interstate road trip would be ideal.

      Reply
    4. Ron Janssen December 29, 2022

      You need to try Tesla! Your wants list describesTesla Supercharge Network. I have had a Model3 for 4.5 years. I live in Florida. Driven it from coast to coast round-trip twice and Co twice more. Never had a charge problem. Been to Yellowstone, Pikes Peak, Arches, Redwoods, Oregon Coast etc Tesla Superchargers are about every 30 -40 miles on Interstates usually near restaurants . I tend to drive on lower 2/3 of battery and look for 250 kw chargers. Stop for 10-15 minutes every couple hours. As for security, use Sentry mode if concerned. Car uses all cameras to catch all activity around car. Check out Supercharged app. Shows map of all Tesla Superchargers around the world. You will be amazed at number! I love my T3.Have CyberTruck on order.

      Reply
      1. Alex December 30, 2022

        Ron, 100% agree. I have been driving ONLY Tesla since 2017. I put 70,000 miles in my 2018 Model X in 32 months. I did multiple road trips from Charlotte to NYC, DC, Miami and other Florida cities. My family did a road trip in my Model 3 in 2019 from Charlotte to Los Angeles, with stops in Grand Canyon N Park and other attractions. I have NEVER had any range anxiety both in town and out of town. I do have to plan ahead a little bit to see where Tesla suggest my charging stops, and the trips do take a little longer, but the joy of Autopilot (aka Stress Free driving), and smooth acceleration and driving, not to mention the financial and environmental benefits far outweigh the small disadvantages. Never once I felt unsafe or inconvenient along the long trips. I don’t remember ever driving more than 2 miles (most of the time a lot less) from the off ramp to get fast charging (under 30 minutes). I have never visited a Tesla SC location with all chargers not working (sometimes 1 or 2 out of many are down, but you see that on the screen before you go there). I often wonder how do the 35% non-Tesla EV owners get by and feel sorry for them

        Reply
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      Jill Ciminillo January 3, 2023

      Nope. Unfortunately Tesla doesn’t loan out media vehicles, and I don’t have the $$ to buy one just to test it. I would love to, though, because everyone I know who owns a Tesla doesn’t have most of the concerns I do about charging on a road trip. The last two electric vehicles I had were a Ford F-150 Lightning and a Kia EV6. The rest of the EV infrastructure definitely needs to catch up to Tesla.

      Reply
  5. Gettin Lost December 25, 2022

    Buc-ee’s here in Texas has been adding dozens of Tesla destination chargers to their stores. Wish they were pull throughs, so that any Lightnings and R1Ts pulling campers wouldn’t have to block multiple stalls, but it’ll get there eventually. Want it to be sooner rather than later. I usually spend an hour+ at Buc-ee’s on road trips, so hoping my Tesla to J1772 adapter works.

    Reply
  6. Elan Mcgregor December 25, 2022

    Wireless charging while waiting at the drive thru in fast food , Starbucks or what ever , companies like wave are allready doi it for busses. It doesn’t solve the interstate lack of charging but maybe somewhat of a solution. One thing for sure , the infrastructure is way behind

    Reply
  7. Gregg December 26, 2022

    Another thing that would help is if the government mandated one style charger connection. Since the Tesla connection is more prevalent and smaller, it would make sense to go with that connection.

    Reply
    1. EvSailor December 30, 2022

      The connector is only half of the equation. The other part is require the chargers to operate like Visa or Mastercard where the same card works on all chargers, regardless of the charger brand

      Reply
  8. Sam Salamay December 26, 2022

    Perfect article. Drove from NJ and back from East Hampton. Had to stop at 350kw Electrify station and only pulled 45kw in this weather. The 10-80% doesn’t work.
    Genesis gv60.

    Reply
    1. Randall December 28, 2022

      Sam That’s on the car, not the charger. That platform doesn’t preheat the battery. By comparison, my 7 year old Tesla charged at max rate in 1deg F travelling from Ashville to ATL.

      Reply
    2. Alex December 30, 2022

      If you were driving a Tesla, you wouldn’t have this problem. Multiple Superchargers (250Kw) along the interstate/major highway, plus battery preheated 15 miles before reaching the supercharger.

      Reply
  9. Thomas December 27, 2022

    The only thing I’m gonna argue with this guy is that the charging stations DO have to be located at the back of a parking lot.
    If they were located In convenient spots in the parking lots, the stall would be filled by inconsiderate drivers that don’t need to charge…especially those gas powered vehicles that can’t even charge.

    Reply
    1. George December 28, 2022

      This is so true. When chargers are on the far side of a parking lot, they don’t get ICEd. When they are near a store, or whatever, they will attract more ICE cars than EVs. Unless large fines are implemented and enforced, the chargers are no good ina tempting spot.
      There is a pair of 7.2kW chargers in a state park parking lot that I visit. I have never seen an EV in those spots, or been able to use one. They are right next to the visitor centre. Even the park rangers park their ICE trucks in them with a half empty lot…

      Reply
  10. James December 27, 2022

    Absolutely nailed it! Every point in this article is 100% correct. Well stated!

    Reply
  11. Anonymous December 27, 2022

    An additional option I see with Superchargers- install at gas stations, particularly truck stop sized stations.

    Reply
    1. Alex December 30, 2022

      Tesla added many new 250kw superchargers at the gas stations. I live in NC and FL. I have seen Sheets and Wawa with Superchargers. GM has signed a deal with Pilot to add their fast chargers.

      Reply
  12. John Rosato December 27, 2022

    Why wouldn’t rest stops with gas stations be the obvious place to target on the interstates ? Most of them are government controlled and one would think that would be the first place to ensure there were adequate fast charging capabilities?

    Reply
    1. Rvrchck December 28, 2022

      I’m always saying the same thing. We have 0 charging station from Barstow to Needles, CA. Due to slightly degraded battery and tons of hills, I am crossing my fingers every road trip that there is no wind, otherwise I won’t make it there.

      Reply
  13. Anonymous December 27, 2022

    Your a bitch, you’ll never get it. Thanks for the click bait you fascist leftist neo nazi

    Reply
    1. Anonymous December 28, 2022

      Why so angry, dumbass? Try to channel some of that energy to improving your grammer. Funny how being an angry right-wing nut job goes hand in hand with stupidity.

      Reply
    2. BlueJade December 29, 2022

      Your comments are unimportant and not worth reading. Next time why don’t you actually state facts and details or even which ideas you are rebutting and why. Otherwise your post is as useless as tits on a boar..

      Reply
  14. Anonymous December 27, 2022

    GM & Ford have recently announced plans to install chargers at their dealerships because “most people live near dealerships” … which as your article mentions … people don’t need chargers near their homes (because charging at home is the norm) … they need public chargers when they travel far from home

    Reply
    1. George December 28, 2022

      Public car dealer chargers are an absolute godsend. I would not be able to travel in my short range Mini Cooper SE without them. At least when the service department hasn’t ICEd them… Parking customer cars a few spots over is too much like hard work.

      Reply
  15. Mort December 28, 2022

    Can’t read micro-typr. I’ve been driving electric sine 2013. Tesla then Bolt

    Start with pllug-in hybrid.

    Reply
  16. Donald R Bowler December 28, 2022

    Wait. I’m confused. You had these issues at a Tesla super charger? Except for the dumb wind shield cleaner, sounds like Tesla ticks all the boxes.

    Reply
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      Jill Ciminillo January 3, 2023

      Tesla does tick the boxes. And that dumb windshield cleaner was really missed. My experiences thus far have been with non-Tesla EVs.

      Reply
  17. Upstate NY December 28, 2022

    Excellent article,
    The infrastructure for EV’s is very poor at this time. Takes too long to charge and as the writer has mentioned, placed is inconvenient locations.
    The issue of cold weather charging is not acceptable.
    It will some time before I will jump on the EV wagon, due to the observation noted in the article and my personal observations.

    Reply
  18. Wade December 28, 2022

    If you drive a $40k+ EV you won’t feel guilty spending $10 on convenience store food. I agree we need more stations directly off freeway exits, I’ve had to drive about 10 min off the freeway to get charged. The other really bad thing about my EV, it adds 1-2 hours to all my road trips. More time than I want to spend charging. The pro: no gas. I do like the ability to watch movies. The future will be higher capacity batteries with only the need to juice at destination. Or faster 5 min chargers.

    Reply
  19. Mary December 28, 2022

    Kilows.com is addressing the guaranteed fast charge with the focus on Interstate placement…. and everything else on the list except the wiper issue, but that’s an easy add-in.

    Reply
  20. George December 28, 2022

    I mostly agree with the article. Fast chargers at 24hr places like Waffle House would be ideal. Rest stop type gas stations like truck stops should also be prime candidates. I am seeing many fast chargers with multiple stalls. Better would be more locations with only a few stalls. Spread the love!
    The hidden away aspect is needed to stop chargers being ICEd. Too many people just don’t care for it to work otherwise. Without an effective deterrent (automatic $500 fine?), making people walk is the only way to keep them out of places that they should not be. Chargers put near buildings are very, very frequently ICEd. I played with fire once and parked an inch behind one of these dicks and stretched the cable tight to reach.

    Leave the big box lot chargers, but add more elsewhere.

    There is a Tesla supercharger at a Sheetz near me, just off an interstate. Perfect for travelling, except that I don’t drive a Tesla…

    Reply
  21. George December 28, 2022

    A collaboration between Tesla and one or more of the CCS fast charging companies seems a good idea. Twice the stalls would not be twice the investment or running costs. I’m a little surprised that Tesla isn’t doing double standard charging themselves already, it would subsidise their supercharger network. Perhaps when they have a bigger network, they’ll start to offer CCS too.

    Reply
  22. Dave December 28, 2022

    Excellent suggestions + make the stations pull through.

    Reply
  23. Danno December 28, 2022

    Check out ChargeNet Stations as they are installing EV Chargers at Taco Bells and other QSR and fast food outlets

    Reply
  24. Kjoe December 28, 2022

    Want to reduce harmful emissions from fossil fuel vehicles?
    Ban the Drive Thru! How many hundreds of thousands of vehicles are sitting at a drive thru right now worldwide?
    Sorry, part your gas guzzler and walk inside! It will do a world of good.

    Reply
  25. Scott December 29, 2022

    We have seen an issue with solitary chargers being occupied long after charging is complete. Once charging is done, car owners should have 10 minutes to move or begin paying for parking. Time to move on and let someone else have access!

    Reply
    1. Alex December 30, 2022

      Tesla Superchargers have implemented Idle Fee for many years.

      Reply
  26. Corey Bailey December 29, 2022

    What a read. I Think you meant 220, not 320. I’m not even going to get into the English of it. However, you’re paid to write and speak English as a first language… I only got a third of the way through because it became evident you’re just venting and didn’t educate yourself on how anything works. (I. E. The agreement box stores enter into to put charging stations). Then there’s the fact that you refuse to intermittently charge throughout the day then complain about how long it takes to fully charge. I’m not an electric car person. I drive a 72′ C20 but the people complaining about electric cars (or much of anything these days) just continue to prove that they don’t know how to operate as an adult. Whining about how everyone and everything doesn’t cater to your lack of planning and responsibility. Im 37 and just loathing the sad state so much of my generation has become. Windshield “wands” are like 5 bucks at Walmart. If you’re in a locale where theyre heavily needed, waddle your behind down there (get twenty mins of a charge top off) and get one to keep in your trunk. Quit complaining and solve your own problems.at the very least, if you’re having difficulty with something, take a moment to assess the structure of a situation and consider, ‘maybe I’m coming at this wrong’ ‘maybe this is a case of user error’.

    Reply
    1. Avatar photo
      Jill Ciminillo January 3, 2023

      You clearly aren’t an electric-car person (notice the compound modifier that this person who’s paid to write and speak English as a first language corrected for you). I think you missed the point of the article. I couldn’t intermittently charge because the distance between the two chargers was 160 miles. So. Maybe you should have read the entire article before commenting. And, no, I meant 320 — that’s the distance you should get with the extended range battery. But, hey, thank you for commenting, and have a nice day.

      Reply
  27. Jeremy December 29, 2022

    Thomas & George are correct. EVGO lives to install chargers right up front in grocery store parking lots and the vast majority of them get ICE’d. I agree they shouldn’t be located behind a store, as many are, but they shouldn’t be near the front of any store. People are way too inconsiderate.

    Reply
  28. Eric December 30, 2022

    These are great points. I would add that the current apps available for locating chargers are unreliable and inconsistent in the information provided. This is not only frustrating, but can also be a safety issue as it divides the attention between safe driving and locating the charger.

    Reply
  29. Typical Boomer January 7, 2023

    I love the EV defenders. Some very upset people in here because someone is voicing legitimate concerns about the EV “process” that need fix to attract more than the die hard EV owners. For a product to be successful mainstream, it must appeal to a large majority of buyers. Right now, EV’s don’t. People have to sacrifice too much in order to go the EV route.

    We have grown accustom to the level of freedom and utility granted to us by our cars. Cars are an expensive. More people realize this are are fine paying extra, even for more expensive gas. With the current state of most EVs (Tesla may be a bit ahead, but they’re still incredibly expensive and currently don’t offer a truck option…lets not get into the towing debate) we have to sacrifice far too much to use them. Especially those of us in the above the frost line in rural America. Until EVs can do everything my current ICE vehicle can, without making huge sacrifices, it’s a no-go for me. There are plenty of people who feel the same as I do than feel the opposite. My nearest major city is roughly 70 miles away. This creates a huge issue if I wish to tow/haul or even travel that distance plus run extra errands in the middle of winter.

    I’m all for making life cheaper, easier, faster, and better. I’m not die hard, struck on gas engines being the best and only way. If EVs eventually accomplish this, sweet. Sign me up. Currently, we’re not there.

    Reply
  30. Sonja January 9, 2023

    Just FYI – Since 1960, federal law has limited commercial activity at Interstate rest stops, which is why you don’t find EV chargers at those locations. It’s illegal.

    Reply

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