As it now stands, most electric-vehicle public charging stations tend to be spartan affairs, with one or two lonely units situated at the distant corners of retail parking lots or enclosed garages that make shopping while topping off the battery less convenient than necessary. Some stores, like the Amazon Fresh grocery that’s just about to open near where we live, put them right up front, but as we’ve seen elsewhere they’re often blocked by squatters in internal combustion vehicles (also uninformed hybrid car owners who think “For Electric Vehicles Only” applies to them).
Unfortunately, most public chargers are still 220-volt Level 2 units that can, at best, add a few miles to an EV’s battery pack within many parking lots’ two-hour limits. And that’s if a given charger is operational at all or can accept a payment method and/or connect to a given vehicle in the first place, but that’s reserved for another screed at a later date.
Though home charging is the key to conveniently and cost-effectively charge an electric vehicle, as EVs become more prevalent there will become a greater need for public Level 3 DC quick charging stations, whether to keep longer-range models running on extended road trips, or for any time the state-of-charge meter starts running uncomfortably low. Level 3 stations can bring some of the latest EVs up to an 80 percent charge in as little as 20-30 minutes.
Experts project there will be 35 million EVs will be on the road by 2030, and even with most only requiring an occasional hookup, the need for public chargers in the coming years will swell exponentially. To that end the Biden administration hopes to add a half million charging outlets to the nation’s current infrastructure, provided it can ever pass all or part of the now-dormant infrastructure bill.
One solution might be to give a greater number of stores, restaurants, and hotels, as well as exiting gas stations incentives to install on-site chargers for their customers, but as it stands they’re not only out of the financial reach of many businesses (the hardware is said to cost upwards of $50,000).
Instead, the Volkswagen subsidiary Electrify America envisions a series of public charging locations that would take the familiar fill-up to new levels of convenience for EV owners. The company says they’ll be “customer-focused stations created with designs inspired by the surrounding communities” to exist as accommodating environments that employ “spatial, behavioral and emotional layers focused on enhancing the human experience.” In other words, they’ll be really nice. They’ll also give tomorrow’s EVs an away-from-home infusion of kilowatts via as many as 20 of the latest DC Fast Charge units per location.
The company says these brightly lit and security camera-equipped flagship stations will incorporate design and comfort elements like solar canopies and awnings, posh customer lounges, and dedicated event space. Charging stations located at select shopping locations could offer valet charging and curbside delivery options for added convenience. Some locations may also offer shopping and dining opportunities that would put the average gas stations’ snack-food fare to shame.
Electrify America already operates location-specific next-gen flagship stations in Baker and Santa Clara, California, with plans to open similar spots in Santa Barbara, San Francisco, San Diego and Beverly Hills, California and in New York within Manhattan and Brooklyn during 2022 and 2023. If successful, we’d imagine there would be more standalone EV-charging locations to come, both from EA and other companies.
“Electrify America will be reinventing the look and feel at many of our charging stations to meet and exceed the expectations of customers moving from a gas-powered vehicle to an electric lifestyle,” said Giovanni Palazzo, president and CEO of Electrify America. “Our customer research shows the need to transition to a more inviting charging experience that accommodates the human experience with waiting areas and other conveniences.”
Happy Earth Day!