Powering your electric fleet: evaluating the availability of EV charging stations
Unlike gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles, with ubiquitous gas stations and fast fill-ups, charging an electric car requires more advanced planning.
While it's true that many EV owners can charge their vehicles at home or at work, this isn't always practical or feasible. For those who rely on public charging stations, the lack of available units can cause significant inconvenience and frustration.
The global average is about 10 EVs per charge point. What this means is that when you do need to use a public charging station, you might find that demand outstrips supply, leading to frustrating wait times.
The factors that influence range are also more complex for EVs. They have much higher ranges in urban areas, decreasing as the speed rises. This is the opposite of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Predicting range also means taking into account environmental factors such as temperature, traffic, road surface, route elevation and payload, as well as battery age and car type.
Compatibility is another issue affecting EVs. Many cars now come equipped with charging bundles, which give discounted or free recharges for use only at certain charging stations. A number of carmakers are even going down the route of supplying private charging stations for that particular make of vehicle. Some charging networks also require users to have a specific membership, payment method, or mobile app to access their services.
This can create complexity and inconvenience for EV drivers who need to manage multiple accounts or memberships to use various charging networks. Then there are different charging standards to contend with: there are several charging standards in use worldwide, such as CHAdeMO, CCS (Combined Charging System), and Tesla's proprietary Supercharger network. These different standards can create confusion and compatibility issues for EV owners when trying to find a suitable charging station.
There are also multiple connector types in use. Incompatibility between connectors can limit the charging options available to EV owners — which can become more prominent if they travel between countries, where different standards are in place.
Despite advancing battery technology, charging time is still a limiting factor. Unlike ICE vehicles, where there are frequent gas stations and refueling is instantaneous, there isn’t a public charging station available on every corner and charging can take some time.
Depending on the car and charge type, charging can take on average 20 minutes to 60 minutes or longer. And because charging stations are few and far between (compared to gas stations), and have higher demand as a consequence, additional wait times for charging points need to be factored into journey planning.
For all these reasons the question of range becomes much more complex for drivers of EVs than for conventional gas-powered vehicles. It becomes essential for drivers to use navigation systems that predict how far they can go to the next available charging station.
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