Is Electrify America’s plan weak on charger reliability fixes?


Is Electrify America’s plan weak on charger reliability fixes?

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is set to approve Electrify America’s proposed plan for its next cycle of charging-network investments. But some in California don’t believe the plan does enough to address charger reliability, the Sacramento Bee reports.

Electrify America was created as part of the Volkswagen diesel settlement, with VW investing set amounts both on a national scale and for California specifically. This latest proposal, known as Cycle 4, represents the final installment in a 10-year, $800 million investment by VW under the terms of the settlement.

Staff analysis of the plan was released on Jan. 11 and is up for official CARB consideration this Thursday. It covers Electrify America investments in both new charging stations and upkeep of existing stations from Jul. 2024 to Dec. 2026.

2022 Hyundai IONIQ 5 at Electrify America DC fast-charging station

According to Cycle 4 plan, which was submitted by Electrify America to CARB in Oct. 2023, the charging network plans to spend $80 million on “station reliability upgrades, operations and maintenance, and demand charges.”

Demand charges seem like they’re a very different category of expense, as they have to do with EA’s arrangements with utilities, not the reliability of their hardware. Nonetheless, CARB seems ready to approve the plan.

“Ultimately, staff conclude that Electrify America has struck a reasonable balance between investment in new and existing stations,” the regulator said. But not everyone thinks this goes far enough.

Electrify America chargers

Electrify America chargers

“The proposal to put in EV chargers is a good one but they have to work,” David Rempel, a professor emeritus at UC Berkeley and author of a recent study on charger reliability, told the Sacramento Bee.

Poor charger reliability, whether related to the charger hardware itself or its connectivity to the network, has been called out more frequently as the network has grown. A 2022 study focusing particularly on California found poor reliability and many “nonfunctioning” public chargers. And Electrify America is one of the names that comes up most frequently in discussions of charger unreliability.

Electrify America hasn’t always been panned, though. It topped other EV charging networks in a 2022 study of the user experience—although that study didn’t actually include uptime or reliability in the rankings.

Ford F-150 Lightning at Electrify America

Ford F-150 Lightning at Electrify America

The network has also helped make the federal government aware of budgeting for maintenance and reliability in its National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) national charging buildout. The U.S. Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, created to oversee the program and others under the Biden administration’s infrastructure law, has made tackling EV charger reliability a priority.

Tesla had never been clear how much money went into that aspect for its Supercharger network, but it’s consistently rated the best for customer satisfaction.

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