DETROIT—Charging an electric vehicle can take several hours, depending on the charger, level of discharge, battery size and the vehicle's capability to accept a jolt of 240- or 480-volt DC juice.
But charging is as dull as watching paint dry. So if an EV needs a charge while it's driving across town or across country, what can be done instead of staring at the state-of-charge display? How about shopping, seeing a movie, catching a meal or hitting the Internet?
Charge providers are crafting shorter and more pleasant experiences. That starts with strategically placing powerful chargers, from 50 to 350 kilowatt-hours, at locations that are well lit and feel safe, such as retail businesses that are open 24/7, restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues—places with Wi-Fi and clean bathrooms and where you can get waited on while you wait.
Auto makers are investing billions to meet emissions requirements and create multisegmented EV portfolios. Buyers want greater range, better affordability and more charge points. Focus groups confirm that easier, quicker charging positively affects EV-purchase consideration.
Electrify America, a subsidiary of VW Group of America, is managing the company's investments in EV education and in growing the nation's charging infrastructure. It was established as part of the settlement with the EPA and the California Air Resources Board for VW's excess diesel emissions. Its management expects that by December 2021, the company will install or have under development about 800 stations with a total of 3,500 chargers in its network.
Other large charging networks include EVgo and ChargePoint.
"The charging site should be easy to see and should be positioned close to the entrance to the retail amenities, whether it's a shopping mall, a grocery store, a restaurant or the National Corvette Museum," says Wayne Killen, director of infrastructure planning and business development at Electrify America. "It's easy to get inside, as opposed to around the back of the parking lot or around on the side in a place where you don't think it's a premium experience."
Killen points out that with apps from carmakers, such as FordPass, and charge providers, owners can check charge-station availability, pay digitally and roam a shopping center while keeping up on charging progress and finish time.
Charging speed is getting better. Killen says charges take 30 to 90 minutes or even less. For example, the Porsche Taycan EV can accept a 270-kWh charge at a 350-kWh Electrify America station, going from 5 percent to 80 percent charged in a bit more than 22 minutes. Barely enough time to stroll away for a leisurely cup of coffee, sip some soup or pick out some cool socks.
Each Electrify America facility has four to 12 charging stations. Chances are there won't be a line for a quick-charge spot.
Killen says choosing charger locations also depended on convenience to major highways, visibility, security and even how environmentally friendly the local utility was in terms of power generation.
Even considering emissions from power plants, driving an EV is equivalent to cruising in a 51-mpg internal combustion engine vehicle. Green, clean—and getting more convenient.