TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Unexpected rapid growth in the number of electric vehicle charging sessions across the state and nation during the past three years is one of the factors contributing to frustrating glitches for owners of the green machines.
In order to qualify for federal funding, Tesla will be opening 7,500 of its fast and relatively problem-free Superchargers for drivers of other brands, but that change is not expected to be fully in place until next year.
The rest of the expanding network of other public chargers is definitely running into some growing pains, according to research of owner complaints.
A woman lamented her problems while charging at a station in the Ellenton area.
“Usually if there’s six [chargers at a station], maybe one will be working or two,” she said. “I was in Naples and only one was working. I had to wait two hours because I needed to charge to make it to Miami.”
She is not alone in her frustrations.
A recent J.D. Power survey shows 24% of Florida EV drivers said public charging stations were “unreliable.”
Miami area drivers reported the worst experience in the country, according to J.D. Power, with 35 percent of those surveyed saying their stops failed to result in charges.
Nationally, 20 percent in the survey claimed public stations were unreliable.
The J.D. Power survey gave the Tesla Supercharger the highest score for DC fast chargers for the third year in a row.
Anthony Lambkin, Vice President of Operations for charging station company Electrify America, said his team is working hard to make their customers’ experiences better.
“We set out on this journey to try to rapidly grow a network in a very short amount of time to meet this growing demand for electric vehicles,” Lambkin said. “We knew it was going to happen, but it was all a matter of when it was going to happen. And we’re investing very heavily in ways to make the experience better.”
Lambkin said public station usage exceeded expectations, skyrocketing from just under 270,000 charging sessions in 2020 to 5.2 million last year.
The total is expected to be even high by the end of 2023, according to Lambkin.
Lambkin remains optimistic the growing grid funded by more than $7 billion in taxpayer investment will catch up to demand and run with fewer glitches.
“The exciting thing is the technology is evolving very rapidly as well and will continue to get closer to that gas station experience where people pull up to refuel relatively quickly,” Lambkin said. “And they can get on their way quickly and easily as well.”
Onetime Tesla Driver Chris Pankuch changed brands after his lease was up and the wait for a new model was too long.
He ran into a string of issues with Electrify America chargers on a recent cross-country road trip, but he and other EV drivers told 8 on Your Side they are still not going back to gas.
“You have to have home charger, though. You have to plan ahead for long trips,” Pankuch advised. “We are being forced in a sense to drive electric vehicles. If that’s the case we are going to need to get our infrastructure together.”