You’re on a road trip, and your favorite charging app directs you to a DC Fast Charging station that has five charging stalls, only one of which is being used. You arrive to find an electric vehicle indeed charging in one of the spots, so you pull into one of the four available stalls. As you reach to grab one of the charge cords, you notice the charge speed available at each of these four available spots: 50 kilowatts (kW).
Wait, wasn’t this charging station supposed to support 350kW charging speeds? There are 300 miles left for today’s drive, and a 50kW charger means extra wait time before getting back on the road. Your car can utilize up to 300kW, so a 50kW charger only taps into less than 20% of the potential charging speed your car is capable of.
Then you notice: A Chevrolet Bolt EV is occupying the one and only 350kW spot.
Here’s the rub: The Bolt can only utilize 55kW on DC Fast Chargers.
What do you do?
This is a case where an emerging market, an ever-changing infrastructure, and even well-meaning drivers can contribute to a bad day on the DC Fast Charging network.
In a market where every new EV seems to charge faster than the last, it’s easy to forget that your car may have different charging capabilities than the car charging next to yours. It’s also easy to forget that charging networks are upgrading their chargers every day to accommodate faster and faster charging speeds. It’s easy to erroneously assume that all chargers at a given station do the same thing!
This is where a few strategies can help alleviate charging challenges such as the one above.
- Consider leaving your phone number somewhere visible to other charger-goers if you’re leaving your car unattended while driving. Living in South Korea, I remember the little phone number-embroidered pillows people left on their dashboards while parked. If someone’s car was blocking yours, you could just call them and ask them to move their car.
- Take a very close look at the charger you’re pulling into and whether it aligns with the maximum charging speed of your car – and know your car’s maximum charging speed by heart!
- Engage in civil conversation. If you happen to see the owner waiting with their car, here’s an example: “Hello! I noticed you are charging your car in a spot that provides more juice than your car can take. I'm on a trip and would prefer to use this charger since it’ll get me back on the road a lot faster – do you mind switching? It won’t slow down your charge.” This is a great opportunity to have a conversation about charger speed differences. Help proliferate this information!
There are many ways we can enhance each other’s charging experiences while at a charging station. For example, never unplug someone’s car unless you are 100% sure it is full and finished charging. Some cars have very clear indicators of this, while others don’t. Others may have charge ports that lock while in use, making it impossible to remove a charge cord without damage.
A charging tag (example below) is a great way to share important information with other drivers.
Another tip: if you find an issue with a charging station, be sure to flag it in your charging app so others know about it – and consider reporting the station as broken to the charging provider.
Curious to learn more about EV charging speeds?