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.