j.d. power: more evs cause more public-charging headaches

As more electric vehicles hit U.S. roads, owners are less impressed with available charging options outside their homes. That’s according to J.D. Power’s second annual U.S. Electric Vehicle Experience (EVX) Public Charging Study measuring EV owners’ satisfaction with public charging. The results are based on a series of criteria including charging costs, ease of charging, finding a charger location and others. Even as charging stations proliferate in some regions as a response to heightened EV demand, there are still challenges to overcome.

The inaugural survey showed that while EV owners found public charging relatively easy to use, charging costs and out-of-service stations posed significant challenges. The 2022 survey results show public charging satisfaction has taken a further dip, reinforcing the role home charging plays in EV ownership.

The survey of more than 11,000 all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle owners conducted in the first half of 2022 showed overall satisfaction for public Level 2 charging fell to 633 (on a 1,000-point scale); that’s down from 643 in 2021. Overall satisfaction for DC fast charging stayed flat at 674.

The More the Merrier? Not for Public Charging

2022 Kia EV6 | Cars.com photo by Joe Bruzek

EV ownership is on the rise: According to Experian, new EV registrations rose 60.4% in the first quarter of 2022 from the same time a year earlier, accounting for 5.1% of overall vehicle registrations. But even as more charging stations are installed to accommodate the surge, finding an operating station proved problematic.

Scores for ease of locating chargers significantly beat the overall average, but while locating a charging station doesn’t appear to be a hassle in most cases, malfunctioning stations cause significant headaches. Frustrations have only grown since 2021: Some 20% of respondents reported not charging their vehicles after stopping at a charging station — up from 13% in 2021 — and 72% of those respondents indicated that was because the station was out of service, a notable increase from 58% a year prior.

Cost Remains a Barrier

EV ownership is an attractive proposition for shoppers who want to save on fuel costs, yet the survey showed EV owners aren’t immune to sticker shock when powering their vehicles at public chargers: The cost category saw notably lower scores compared to the overall average (473 for DC fast chargers and 446 for Level 2 chargers).

Regional Satisfaction

Public-charging satisfaction scores did not see a positive correlation with the total number of public chargers in a specific region. For example, the Pacific region (which includes California) has the highest number of public chargers and EV owners but lower overall satisfaction scores. The same trend was seen in other areas with high EV adoption rates, including Texas and Washington; this is likely due to increased competition to find an available (and functioning) charger. Meanwhile, Midwestern states including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin saw the highest level of satisfaction despite trailing the aforementioned locations in public charger availability.

Tesla Chargers Still on Top

Tesla Model S (left) and Model X at Supercharger | Manufacturer image

The survey also examined which public chargers are most and least problematic for EV owners. Matching its 2021 ranking, Tesla’s chargers came out ahead for both Level 2 charging and DC fast charging. Runners up included Volta and ChargePoint. Tesla’s Supercharger network also had a runaway lead in the DC fast-charging category; ChargePoint and Electrify America trailed.

Home Charging Strongly Encouraged

The finished JuiceBox 40 charger where it lives | Cars.com photo by Jenni Newman

The survey results are in line with a common trepidation around EV ownership. According to J.D. Power, the shortage of public-charging availability is the No. 1 reason car shoppers reject EVs.

“Public charging continues to provide challenges to overall EV adoption and current EV owners alike,” said Brent Gruber, executive director of global automotive at J.D. Power, in a statement. “Not only is the availability of public charging still an obstacle, but EV owners continue to be faced with charging station equipment that is inoperable.”

Although public charging can’t always be avoided (longer road trips will require finding charger stations en route), installing a Level 2 home charger eliminates many of the frustrations noted in the survey. Many EVs come with a cord for Level 1 charging for use with a standard 120-volt household outlet. This process is far from efficient, however, providing minuscule amounts of  range per hour. Alternatively, upgrading to 240-volt Level 2 charging will add significantly more miles of range per hour depending on the vehicle and charging circuit. A Level 2 home charger installation can cost thousands of dollars, as Cars.com editors can attest, but it may be a small price to pay in exchange for hassle-free charging at home.

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