J.D. Power Survey Suggests Public EV Charging Getting Worse

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Over the last couple of years, there have been a series of questionnaires hoping to determine how satisfied people are with the United States EV charging infrastructure. Most have been pretty bleak, suggesting that just about everyone driving an electric car prefers to charge at home. But these surveys have also highlighted a problem with the general unreliability of public charging stations.

Based on the latest data coming from J.D. Power, the issue appears to have worsened. The outlet’s Electric Vehicle Experience Public Charging Study alleges that over 20 percent of all charging attempts failed in 2022.

We’re normally suspect of any automotive surveys coming out of groups with industry ties and have frequently questioned J.D. Power’s framing in the past. But the brunt of the automobile sector has already asserted its commitment to transitioning to all-electric lineups – making the results of this survey seem counterproductive. There have also been numerous surveys and loads of independent investigations supporting J.D. Power’s claims.

Downtime is becoming a serious issue for EV charging stations.

Speaking with Automotive News, the American data analytics, software, and consumer intelligence company expressed concerns about the government investing billions of dollars into the charging infrastructure under the Biden administration’s so-called Inflation Reduction Act, Discretionary Grant Program for Charging and Fueling Infrastructure, and the Neighborhood Access and Equity Grant Program. With stations apparently seeing insufficient maintenance, routine software issues, and failures in cold weather, this effectively becomes corporate welfare.

From Automotive News:

The number of failed charging attempts climbed steadily from 15 percent in the first quarter of 2021 to 20 percent in the first quarter of 2022 and rose to more than 21 percent by the third quarter, according to J.D. Power's Electric Vehicle Experience Public Charging Study released Wednesday.
Satisfaction with Level 2 chargers and Level 3 chargers hit its lowest point in the third quarter since J.D. Power began its EV public charging study in 2021. A Level 2 charger powers an EV in five to six hours. Level 2 chargers are often installed at home, work or public shopping centers, where vehicles are parked for a significant amount of time. Level 3 chargers require a much larger grid connection and take 15 to 20 minutes to refill most of an EV's charge.
The federal government, states and industry stakeholders have committed billions of dollars to expand EV charging infrastructure across the U.S., but if chargers fail, that investment could be in vain.
"We can't add new chargers and let all those old ones fall into a state of disrepair," said Brent Gruber, executive director of global automotive at J.D. Power. "We have to manage the maintenance of those as well because that's the only way we're going to meet the consumer demand."

Charger outage rates reportedly varied quite broadly between operators, however, J.D. Power declined to say which companies were doing the worst job. Though it did state that the range between charging stations ranged between 3 and 39 percent.

Based on previous studies, anecdotal evidence, some personal experience, and a little speculation from Automotive News, we’re still under the impression that Tesla’s Supercharger network is the most consistent by a wide margin. This is presumably down to the automaker maintaining those stations itself, with the knowledge that its products live and die by how successful they happen to be.

Another issue has been the pace at which charging technologies have accelerated. EVs may still be a niche segment. But the charging technology has come a long way over the past decade, making loads of older charging stations less useful. These older units are also allegedly more prone to failure. The government has suggested creating minimum standards for EV charging – one that would include hard regulatory limits on what constitutes acceptable downtime and maintenance routines. But getting the government involved doesn’t guarantee improved service and could likewise prohibit further innovation.

While your author has frequently been accused of being “anti-EV,” the truth of the matter is that I just don’t think they’re being implemented in a manner that actually benefits regular people. This is a concern that can likewise be extended to modern combustion vehicles. However, they lack the regulatory pressures that have become ubiquitous with electric vehicles – perhaps advancing a technology before it has reached full maturity.

Though the biggest issue is the actual ownership experience, which can be blissful or harrowing depending on your lifestyle. Motorists that rarely stray far from home and have a garage where they can charge their all-electric vehicle typically have little to complain about – especially if they also happen to have another combustion-driven automobile for road trips. But individuals who have to park their car outdoors and lack a convenient charging solution at home have nothing to gain by purchasing an EV.

A lackluster charging infrastructure only exacerbates this issue and basically ensures electric vehicles never become the dominant mode of transportation until their efficiency comes up dramatically. I recently published an article speculating that the Hertz rental agency had shot itself in the foot by pushing EVs onto customers that just want the most hassle-free experience available. But that’s not realistic when renters have to drive out of their way to find the nearest charging station or the people working at the rental office don’t have a convenient way of plugging them in.

However, that’s not a plea for the government to reallocate funds to pay companies to build additional charging stations. Because, with a few notable exceptions, the ones we already have don’t seem to be well taken care of. There needs to be some consideration given to these plans before the government decides to send piles of money to an industry that doesn't seem to be keeping its end of the bargain. Whatever angle J.D. Power is playing, it’s still correct in asserting that we need to fix the infrastructure we have today before looking toward tomorrow.

[Image: VisualArtStudio/Shutterstock]

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Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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6 of 119 comments
  • Master Baiter Master Baiter on Feb 09, 2023

    Seems to me unattended chargers will continue to be a target of vandals and thieves. And it's not clear there's a business case for maintaining them.

    Yes, Tesla has figured this out. Now if they could just figure out how to build a decent car, they'd have something. The carbon-fiber wrapped motors and octo-valves are nice technology, but I'm talking about paint quality, panel gaps, interior materials and ergonomics, where they are still far behind IMHO.

    • See 2 previous
    • EBFlex EBFlex on Feb 10, 2023

      "I mean GM's basic strategy is to sell a great OHV V8 and surround it with a garbage car they throw in for free."

      Sounds far better than any EV.

  • Kevin Kevin on Feb 24, 2023

    Problem with the infrastructure bill, materials have to be made in USA. Last report its not going very far due to this requirement. The target of 500,000 charging stations by 2030 as per the bill, is nowhere close to being on track.

    • David S. David S. on Jun 12, 2023

      But all the money will be spent requiring additional funds to complete the narrative courtesy of John Q. Taxpayer!

  • MaintenanceCosts "But your author does wonder what the maintenance routine is going to be like on an Italian-German supercar that plays host to a high-revving engine, battery pack, and several electric motors."Probably not much different from the maintenance routine of any other Italian-German supercar with a high-revving engine.
  • 28-Cars-Later "The unions" need to not be the UAW and maybe there's a shot. Maybe.
  • 2manyvettes I had a Cougar of similar vintage that I bought from my late mother in law. It did not suffer the issues mentioned in this article, but being a Minnesota car it did have some weird issues, like a rusted brake line.(!) I do not remember the mileage of the vehicle, but it left my driveway when the transmission started making unwelcome noises. I traded it for a much newer Ford Fusion that served my daughter well until she finished college.
  • TheEndlessEnigma Couple of questions: 1) who will be the service partner for these when Rivian goes Tits Up? 2) What happens with software/operating system support when Rivia goes Tits Up? 3) What happens to the lease when Rivian goes Tits up?
  • Richard I loved these cars, I was blessed to own three. My first a red beauty 86. My second was an 87, 2+2, with digital everything. My third an 87, it had been ridden pretty hard when I got it but it served me well for several years. The first two I loved so much. Unfortunately they had fuel injection issue causing them to basically burst into flames. My son was with me at 10 years old when first one went up. I'm holding no grudges. Nissan gave me 1600$ for first one after jumping thru hoops for 3 years. I didn't bother trying with the second. Just wondering if anyone else had similar experience. I still love those cars.