Monthly Archives: December 2022

Preconceptions on EVs Lead to Wrong Infrastructure Decisions

Drivers of internal combustion vehicles far outnumber drivers of electrical vehicles (EV). Meaning: they are often the ones deciding on EV matters.

Based on a few formal surveys and many ad hoc conversations with drivers and deciders, I unfortunately see that preconceptions on EVs too often drive decision-making on EV matters. I compiled the differences in thinking for combustion and electrical vehicle drivers in the table below. Warning: reality might shock combustion drivers.

What Combustion Drivers Think What EV Drivers Know
Full charge: “You need to charge to 100% before driving.”Charge enough: “I just need to have enough battery to get to where I need to go.”
Long charge time: “It takes much longer to charge your EV than to fuel an ordinary car.”Quick charge (1): “It takes seconds to plug my EV and then I usually go do whatever I need to do.”
Quick charge (2): “If I’m on a road trip, I try to charge at my destination (hotel, cottage…) so I don’t have to wait.”
Quick charge (3): “If I can’t charge home, I get my car to charge overnight at a curbside station, at my workplace, or while shopping.”
Don’t stand there! “Don’t you hate standing beside your car, sweeting, freezing or being rained on, while holding a filthy gas nozzle?”
Slower, but who cares? “Yah, it takes a bit longer to charge at a fast-charging station, but I only charge there as a last resort and very rarely, so it doesn’t matter much since I saved so much time rarely going to gas stations.”
Range anxiety: “Will you have enough charge in the battery to get where you want to go?”Mostly charge at home: “I mostly charge at home and most of my driving is within the 400 km (250 mi.) range of my vehicle.”
Charging anxiety: “Will I be able to charge when I get to the charging station? Will there be a problem such as a broken charger, blocked access, a long waiting line or a combustion vehicle in the stall? How long will it take to charge with this fast charger?”
No charging station: “I don’t see charging stations around where I live.”Easy to find: “Charging sites are easy to find using apps like ChargeHub or PlugShare.”
Good geographic coverage: “Fast charging geographic coverage outside cities is quite good, but there may not be enough charging stalls at peak times.”
Slow is best: “I rather charge at one of the many slow (level 2) destination chargers, often for free, instead of waiting at a fast charger.”
Poor layout: “Why are fast chargers in the remotest corner of the parking lot, or in the middle of nowhere, without a canopy, and requiring backing up? 
No amenities: Is there a restroom and a place to get coffee at this charging station?”
It’s complicated: “Why so many different price scheme? How do I pay? Why do I need to have so many apps on my phone? Don’t you want my business?”
Unreliable public chargers: “Public chargers, especially fast ones, are often broken.”

Messaging and actions to accelerate EV adoption by combustion drivers need to dispel these preconceptions. However, these are different than the messaging and the actions necessary to meet the needs of EV drivers. For example, increasing visibility of charging stations will help combustion drivers realize that there are, indeed, many charging stations around, but it won’t help EV drivers who know how to find them anyway. However, having drive-through layouts and canopies would be greatly appreciated by EV drivers. 

The dichotomy between combustion and EV drivers makes it difficult for government to promote EV adoption while ensuring that the right infrastructure is deployed. This contradiction also led to many charging operators and site owners to install chargers which ended up being lightly used, either because they are not well matched to the site, not well situated, poorly laid out or simply unattended and broken.

Better understanding what combustion drivers and EV drivers think will help us make informed investment decisions. 

Why Are We Trying to Replicate the Gas Station Experience for EVs?

Your grandma’s rotary phone had advantages over a cell phone: it didn’t need to be recharged and the voice quality was superior. Yet, rotary phones can now only be found in museums. And it didn’t stop at cell phones: Apple came along and showed us how a smartphone has potential to be so much more. Our smartphones are now considered essential for running our day-to-day lives beyond communication — we shop, we look for directions, we take pictures; it’s now more of a personal assistant then a phone. But we need to charge them.

The same transformation is happening with EVs. EVs can do more than a combustion vehicle, being batteries on wheels designed around a core computing architecture. We’re only beginning to scratch the surface of how EVs can change our lives, with greater resiliency at home and helping integrate renewable energy sources without contributing as much to climate change.

Yet, non-EV drivers seem to assume that adoption of EVs will be limited until they can be recharged in a time comparable to fueling a combustion vehicle at a gas station. It’s like saying that cell phones and smartphones can’t reach mass adoption until they don’t need to be charged. 

Combustion vehicle drivers might be shocked (warning!) to learn that EV driver behavior is closer to charging a smartphone than fueling a car. EV drivers tend to charge overnight at home or opportunistically during the day, but not necessarily expecting a full charge every time. They prefer to charge at their destination using less expensive, more convenient and more reliable (but slower) level 2 chargers or slow DCFC rather than faster chargers at a “gas station” where they would have to wait and pay more for charging. Do you often “fast charge” your smartphone? I don’t.

“Gas station” charging is the most expensive way to charge in an ecosystem that is very price sensitive (like gasoline). It’s also the most time-consuming way to charge while we all need more time to do our things. Nevertheless, “gas station” charging is crucial in some situations, like along corridors during a road trip. But it’s also a last resort, used as infrequently as possible. Like a payphone in remote locations without cell coverage. But this doesn’t stop us from loving our smartphones.