Analysis of the Voices
Analysis of the Voices in the Debate on EV Charging SpeedAnalysis of the Voices in the Debate on EV Charging Speed Charging speed is a major point of contention in the debate on whether the world is ready or not for the transition to electric vehicles (EVs). Surrounding this part of the debate are three main perspectives: People who are completely satisfied with current charging speed, people who are mostly satisfied but would appreciate improvements, and those whose lifestyle could not support an electric vehicle with current speeds.
Personally, I can see merit to all three arguments. Before researching and experiencing life with an EV, I was very skeptical of charging speeds and could never see charging speed ever being fast enough. After doing some research and realizing how much driving habits can vary greatly from person to person, it now makes sense to me that people would fall into all three parts of the discussion. From research, reflection and real life EV ownership experience, I now believe current charging speed is plenty for most lifestyles, but also think an increase in charging speed would be welcomed by many other EV drivers.
Currently, EV owners have more options than ever for charging their vehicles. Regular wall outlets are considered Level 1 chargers and provide 2 to 5 miles of range per hour of charging time. Level 2 chargers use higher voltage outlets, like a 240v dryer outlet, and provide 10-30 miles of range per hour of charging time. Most public EV chargers are Level 2. Level 3 chargers are also called DC Fast Chargers, because they use direct current instead of the alternating current used by regular outlets and provide between 150-500 miles of range per hour of charging time (Nealer 28).
For many users, these speeds are perfectly fine, hence their satisfaction with current charging speeds. Most EV owners charge in their garage overnight. In an EV with a range of less than 100 miles, a Level 1 or Level 2 charger is sufficiently fast to replace any range consumed during the day overnight. Even with EVs with ranges of 250+ miles, a Level 2 charger can easily bring a battery back to full. The majority of all automobile owners, not just EV drivers, have an extended period of downtime to charge, so relying on relatively low speed chargers isn’t an issue (Bayram 37).
However, there are legitimate scenarios as well that can make EV ownership prohibitive. More and more people are moving from single-family homes to multi-family buildings, and often have restricted or no access to home charging and are stuck relying on Level 2 chargers at work or DC Fast Chargers (Cost, Effectiveness, and Deployment of Fuel Economy Technologies for Light-Duty Vehicles 330).
In the conversation on EV charging speed, I’ve found actual owners and personal experience to be the most important voices. While academic sources are excellent for providing data on how the current technology works and how it may advance, they don’t always manifest their findings in a way that is useful for someone researching charging times. Additionally, it can be difficult to gauge how charging speed can affect your life without some experience charging an EV.
That being said, EV owners also carry their own bias with them. Since EVs aren’t widely adopted yet, most owners have gone out of the way to seek out and adjusted their lifestyles to accommodate this emerging technology. Because of this, they may not be recognizing the full scope of accomodations they’ve had to make for their EV. For example, as an EV owner, I’ve found myself patronizing business that have EV chargers more frequently than I used to in order to plug in. Also, when road tripping, my family stops where there are DC Fast chargers in contrast with stopping anywhere there’s food or gas. Because of this, there’s sometimes time being lost from seeking out charging stations than that lost by using a slower charger, which can be hard to acknowledge.
I’ve been gathering personal research on EV charging speed for several years, over which my perspective has changed dramatically. My first experience with an EV was in 2017 in California, when my parents spontaneously decided to rent a Tesla Model S for a week in Los Angeles after seeing one in the parking lot of the rental agency. Me standing in the parking lot trying to talk them out of it is an excellent example of how I was thinking as someone with the skeptical perspective would. Would we be able to keep the car charged with our itinerary? We had no home charger, no knowledge of public infrastructure, and no any experience with EV ownership, so naturally I thought it would not suit our lifestyle. After all, why would we want to spend all day waiting for the car to charge instead of going out and having fun?
As it turned out, California was an excellent place to drive the EV. Our hotel had a charger, so we would plug in at night, go to bed, and wake up the next morning to a full battery. Many of our destinations also had a place to plug in, as well. While I was correct thinking it would take hours of charging a day to keep the battery full, I overlooked that it didn’t have to happen on our own time. My perspective had been changed from thinking EV charging speed would not be possible with my lifestyle, to thinking EV charging speed would have little to no effect on my life.
Fast forward to late 2018, and my mother traded in her gasoline-hungry Honda minivan for a Model S the week after I left for college. One would think charging an EV in rural Wisconsin is much more different than in California. There’s almost no public charging infrastructure and traveling long distances would be tricky since Superchargers are few and far between. However, it’s not. The relatively slow 24 mph charging rate we get from the 240v dryer outlet in our garage is more than enough to top off the 335 miles of range our Model S offers by charging overnight. We rarely drive more than the range of the car, but when we do charging speed starts to affect us.
Because our EV is a Tesla, we have access to the Supercharger network, a collection of 12,888 DC Fast chargers spread over 1,441 stations along major highways in North America. The car routes us through the chargers such that we stop couple hours to charge. At the speed of current Superchargers, we charge at a whopping 400mph. In other words, we replenish enough range to continue to either the next station or our destination in 20-40 minutes (Supercharger). It’s a good opportunity to use the bathroom and get a cup of coffee, but there’s still time wasted waiting for the car to get enough range for us to continue on our journey, especially when contrasted with waiting a couple minutes to refill our van with gasoline. After taking a few road trips with our Model S, my perspective has shifted yet again from viewing EV charging speed as a non-issue to viewing it as mostly good, but with room for improvement.
Tesla recently announced the rollout of the next-generation Supercharger, which would enable charging speeds of over 1000mph (Introducing V3 Supercharging). Unfortunately, our Model S won’t be able to take advantage of the full speed, but will be able to accept a slightly higher speed than it currently does (Lambert). However, if our car were able to charge at the newer rapid rate, which would cut our supercharging time from 40 min to 15, I would likely fall back into the category of completely satisfied.
Even though I’ve been doing daily research on EVs for the last few years and dug in even deeper for this project, reflecting on personal experience is what has ultimately defined and changed my thinking. I think owners, both current and prospective, are the most important voices in the conversation since ultimately they’ll be the ones impacted by the issue in the future and I look forward to seeing how those voices will change in the coming years as the technology continues to progress.