Why Is EV Charging Still Such A Poor Customer Experience?
The ideal situation for anyone buying an Electric Vehicle (EV) is that they have a private garage at home where it can be charged. If your EV is usually charged when sitting idle at home then your ‘range anxiety’ will be reduced because almost every time you start out in the vehicle it will be fully charged. It’s very much like leaving home with your phone usually at 100% battery life.
In many urban environments that is going to be quite difficult. Many people living in cities don’t have a private garage, their car lives on the street. Even those in apartments with a dedicated car parking space may not have any access to electricity for charging.
So in this case the EV owner will depend on public charging stations. Even if you can charge at home then a driver undertaking a long journey will need to rely on public charging. But why is the customer experience (CX) so bad at public charging stations?
Sara Sloman, the director of Future Fleet at Paythru and founding member of The EV Cafe, has been writing about all these issues for years. As an EV thought leader, even four years ago she was arguing that people think they drive more than they really do, so maybe not everyone really needs the ability to charge at home. In a more recent post on LinkedIn Sara talked about a visit to Wales where it was impossible to find any charging stations in a remote village, but it is possible to search around – she found a supermarket and pub with charging. They are out there.
If you can’t charge at home and rely on public charging then it can become an obsession. Finding those pubs and supermarkets can be like playing a game of hide and seek. There is another issue though – why is the experience so bad when you do locate public charging?
Sometimes the public charging cables are filthy. Sometimes the charging station doesn’t even work. Maybe the cables are worn or broken – it looks like nobody has done any maintenance for months. Sometimes there is a line of cars waiting to charge. Sometimes the charger is available but access is blocked by parked petrol cars that are not charging.
Even if you find a clean and working charging station, there are so many competing charging networks that you might need to carry a wallet full of different network cards to be able to pay. Imagine visiting a regular petrol station, like Shell, and being told that you can only fill your car if you are a registered Shell user with the Shell app on your phone. If you are not registered then go away. Sloman also describes similar troubles in another Linkedin post, she laments a perfect storm of charging point payment failures, “I wasn’t a member, the app wouldn’t load, the web based payment portal failed and it wasn’t contactless enabled.”
All these issues make the charging experience problematic and can really detract from the pleasure of EV ownership – especially the fact that you don’t need to fill a tank with liquid fuel that is being charged at sky high prices.
The charging networks need to work together to agree on a single and simple payment mechanism so it’s possible for any EV owner to charge anywhere. They also need to realise that cleanliness and maintenance is essential – a really poor charging experience can turn potential customers away. Imagine watching your friend go through a terrible charging experience because they insist on using an EV. Would you be rushing out to buy one?
The charging networks may have focused on rolling out to as many locations as possible, but CX is coming into focus. They need to be answering calls reporting damaged or broken equipment so it can be fixed. They need to build automated monitoring networks. They need to be cleaning charging stations and anticipating what their customers need before the complaints arrive.
This needs a renewed focus on CX. The time to only worry about rollout is over. Now we want as many charging stations as possible, but the experience also has to be acceptable too.