Electric Vehicle Charging: Convenience, Reliability, Accessibility, & Future Needs (CleanTechnica EV Driver Report) – PlanetSave

Electric Vehicle Charging: Convenience, Reliability, Accessibility, & Future Needs (CleanTechnica EV Driver Report)

Originally published on CleanTechnica.

You can’t talk about electric cars without talking about electric car charging. So, it’s not surprising that the charging section of our new 93-page electric car driver report is the largest section of the report. The biggest differences when going from a gas car to an electric car are probably the lack of emissions, the instant torque, the quiet driver, the fact that you can often charge at home (and/or work), longer “refueling”/charging times, and shorter driving range. Charging is the only factor there that comes with pros and cons — more convenient charging locations … but not always; longer charging times … but no need to stand at the pump, and the ability to have a charging station in your garage.

So, it was with a great degree of curiosity that we explored EV charging experiences and needs by type of EV and region for our latest EV report. What’s the story for Tesla drivers, non-Tesla fully electric car drivers, and plug-in hybrid drivers? What’s the story for Americans vs Europeans? We already covered the desire and demand for fast charging and superfast charging in a previous section, but we dive much more into other charging matters here. Jump down below the line for the results.

If you’ve read the report intro in one of our previous articles about the new report, just jump down below the line to get into the article itself. In case you missed previous intros, though, here’s a short summary of the report:

We surveyed over 2,000 electric car drivers living in 28 countries (49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces). We wanted to find out what early electric car adopters require and desire from their next electric cars and from EV charging networks, as well as what EV life is like so far for them.

This report segments responses by three distinct electric vehicle groups (Tesla drivers, pure-electric but non-Tesla drivers, and drivers of plug-in hybrids) as well as by continent (North America versus Europe). This segmentation unveils clear differences on many topics — which is sensible given the vast variation in user experience for each type of EV and for the two regions, but which we’ve never seen uncovered before.

You can get the full 93-page report — Electric Car Drivers: Desires, Demands, & Who They Are — for $500, or you can check out the first 60 pages for free here [pdf]. (Also, if you contributed to the report/surveys and want a free copy, drop us a note and we’ll send the entire report your way.) Core report partners included EV-BoxTesla Shuttle, and Important Media’s central team. Other report partners included The Beam, EV Obsession, and the Low Voltage Vehicle Electrification summit.


EV Charging Use, Convenience, & Needs

The previous section examined demand for fast charging and super-fast charging, but what about normal home charging and public Level 2 charging? This section delves into those matters in several ways.

Level 2 Charging

First of all, let’s get a sense of how much current EV drivers actually use Level 2 charging.

It turns out that 19–35% of EV drivers (depending on group) use public Level 2 charging stations less than once a year. Another 2–7% use it just once a year, and 13–24% use it just a few times a year. Breaking the sum of those figures down by group, these are the percentages of respondents who charge on public Level 2 charging stations a few times a year or less:

      • Tesla drivers in Europe = 45%
      • Tesla drivers in North America = 65%
      • Non-Tesla pure-EV drivers in Europe = 39%
      • Non-Tesla pure-EV drivers in North America = 35%
      • Plug-in hybrid drivers in Europe = 54%
      • Plug-in hybrid drivers in North America = 51%

In general, the biggest implied takeaway there for me is that the public charging market is going to be much, much smaller than the gas station market. People don’t need to charge much outside of home (and even less so if they have workplace charging, which I assume will become the norm).

Another point to highlight right here is that living with an electric car is super convenient. Due to the convenience of home charging (you can essentially start each day with a full charge), the need to go out and find a charging station at some point in the middle of one’s errands is unusual.

That said, some EV drivers do currently charge at public Level 2 stations every day, and many others do so a few times a week or once a week. As CleanTechnica’s long-term Nissan LEAF reviewer with no home charging has shown, even that can be extremely convenient and pleasant, but it does require adequate and properly placed public charging stations.

Looking at the specific stats by group again, here are the percentages of respondents who charge at a public charging station every day:

      • Tesla drivers in Europe = 1.7%
      • Tesla drivers in North America = 0.4%
      • Non-Tesla pure-EV drivers in Europe = 4.1%
      • Non-Tesla pure-EV drivers in North America = 4.2%
      • Plug-in hybrid drivers in Europe = 8.1%
      • Plug-in hybrid drivers in North America = 4%

And here are the percentages of respondents who charge at a public charging station at least once a week:

      • Tesla drivers in Europe = 19.3%
      • Tesla drivers in North America = 5.9%
      • Non-Tesla pure-EV drivers in Europe = 25.6%
      • Non-Tesla pure-EV drivers in North America = 21.3%
      • Plug-in hybrid drivers in Europe = 25.8%
      • Plug-in hybrid drivers in North America = 15.7%

It’s unclear to what degree respondents rely on public charging rather than use it just because it’s there (well, plug-in hybrid drivers certainly don’t “need” it), but these responses do indicate decent use of public charging.

As I think the results from Tesla drivers in North America show, however, if the car has enough range, this use can drop considerably.  When you consider that we seldom drive more than 50 miles in a day, it’s logical that we would regain that range via overnight charging and, if our car has >200 miles of range, we would rarely need to use a public charging station.

For the time being, though, it seems that at least one quarter of EV drivers will use public charging stations at least once a week if charging stations are available (and cheap). And maybe they’d use charging stations more if they were widely available.

Level 3 Charging & Super-Fast Charging

Similar to the above topic, we queried survey respondents about their use of Level 3 charging (aka DC fast charging) and we queried Tesla drivers about their use of Supercharging.

To clarify, Level 3 charging as it is available today allows for a charging rate of 24–50 kW, whereas Tesla Supercharging can offer up to 120 kW. In human terms, that means adding approximately 50–100 miles of range in ~30 minutes (Level 3 charging) or up to approximately 170 miles in ~30 minutes (Supercharging).

Additionally, Level 3 charging often isn’t cheap, whereas Supercharging was “free” for Tesla drivers up until early 2017. So, unsurprisingly, given the general lack of necessity (and lack of capability for some electric cars), Level 3 charging is seldom used whereas Supercharging is quite commonly used by Tesla drivers.

Given how many respondents indicated they use Supercharging a few times a month or even more frequently, it seems that the 400 kWh per year of free Supercharging is likely to be quite a bit less than many initial owners have been using. I doubt this will deter many buyers, but it’s an interesting drop in product value nonetheless.

Our surveys indicated that 48% of European Tesla drivers Supercharge a few times a month or more frequently and 30% of North American Tesla drivers Supercharge that frequently. Here are more specific numbers:

European Tesla Drivers

      • Every day — 0.8%
      • A few times a week — 3.4%
      • Once a week — 10.1%
      • A few times a month — 33.6%
      • Once a month — 15.1%
      • Every other month — 11.8%
      • Once every few months — 6.7%
      • A few times a year — 16%
      • Once a year — 0%
      • Less than once a year — 2.5%

North American Tesla Drivers

      • Every day — 0.2%
      • A few times a week — 3.7%
      • Once a week — 6.1%
      • A few times a month — 20.1%
      • Once a month — 19.2%
      • Every other month —10.3%
      • Once every few months — 14.7%
      • A few times a year — 18.2%
      • Once a year — 0.9%
      • Less than once a year — 6.5%

Related to the above topics, we asked respondents how adequate the current EV charging network is for long-distance trips. For Tesla drivers, we asked this question in a straightforward manner. For the other EV drivers, we asked them how adequate the network would be if they had an electric car with over 200 miles of range. (No matter what the charging network is like, electric cars with 70 miles of range are challenging for road trips, but with the near arrival of the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3, we figured this question was relevant to the near future and that respondents had thought a bit about it.)

The vast majority of Tesla drivers (81% of North Americans and 80% of Europeans) find the current network adequate. Though, only 37% of North Americans and 38% of Europeans consider it to be very adequate. Presumably, those percentages will rise as Tesla further builds out its Supercharging network.

Similarly, the vast majority of non-Tesla EV drivers consider the current EV charging network to be adequate for long-distance trips, but far less than 50%, on average, consider it to be “very adequate.”

Looking at some specific figures, these were the percentages of respondents (by group) who thought the existing EV charging network was somewhat or very adequate:

        • Non-Tesla pure EV drivers in North America — 75%
        • Non-Tesla pure EV drivers in Europe — 80%
        • Plug-in hybrid drivers in North America — 52%
        • Plug-in hybrid drivers in Europe — 52%

And these are the percentages of respondents who thought the network was very adequate:

        • Non-Tesla pure EV drivers in North America — 42%
        • Non-Tesla pure EV drivers in Europe — 49%
        • Plug-in hybrid drivers in North America — 20%
        • Plug-in hybrid drivers in Europe — 21%

The challenge here is that we don’t actually know how many of the respondents were considering the Supercharger network (exclusive to Tesla vehicles at the moment) when answering this question.

Nonetheless, it seems clear that most respondents see current EV charging possibilities as good enough for long-distance travel — if not super adequate for that.

On the flip side, these are the percentages that see the current EV charging network as somewhat or very inadequate:

        • Non-Tesla pure EV drivers in North America — 15%
        • Non-Tesla pure EV drivers in Europe — 10%
        • Plug-in hybrid drivers in North America — 26%
        • Plug-in hybrid drivers in Europe — 26%

Convenience, Accessibility, & Reliability

Critical factors for public charging stations to be useful are that they be convenient, accessible, and reliable. We dove into these topics a bit via our surveys as well.

There’s certainly room for improvement, but our results indicate that current EV charging infrastructure is quite convenient and accessible for EV drivers of all types. There’s notable variation by type of EV, but the overall results are pretty positive, especially if you consider that next-gen EVs will often have over 200 miles of range instead of 60–110 miles.

Taking out the N/A answers, 47–73% of EV drivers we surveyed consider the EV charging stations they use to be somewhat or very conveniently located. The specific breakdown by group and type of EV is as follows:

        • Tesla drivers in North America — 71%
        • Tesla drivers in Europe — 73%
        • Non-Tesla pure EV drivers in North America — 51%
        • Non-Tesla pure EV drivers in Europe — 59%
        • Plug-in hybrid drivers in North America — 32%
        • Plug-in hybrid drivers in Europe — 47%

Similarly, but a bit more positively, 66–87% of drivers consider those EV charging stations to be accessible. The specific breakdown is:

        • Tesla drivers in North America — 71%
        • Tesla drivers in Europe — 73%
        • Non-Tesla pure EV drivers in North America — 51%
        • Non-Tesla pure EV drivers in Europe — 59%
        • Plug-in hybrid drivers in North America — 32%
        • Plug-in hybrid drivers in Europe — 47%

One more qualitative charging station matter we looked into was reliability of the charging stations EV drivers use. The responses on this matter were approximately what was expected from previous research.

        • Tesla drivers in North America — 93%
        • Tesla drivers in Europe — 89%
        • Non-Tesla pure EV drivers in North America — 82%
        • Non-Tesla pure EV drivers in Europe — 79%
        • Plug-in hybrid drivers in North America — 84%
        • Plug-in hybrid drivers in Europe — 70%

Yet again, there’s certainly room for improvement — can you imagine 10–30% of gas car drivers having reliability problems with the gas stations they use? Nonetheless, a large majority of respondents did consider the charging stations they used to be somewhat or very reliable.

Overall, the findings from these questions and responses showed that current EV drivers do, in large part, find the current charging infrastructure convenient, accessible, and reliable, but there’s a lot of potential to improve on each of these matters.

Home Charging

As with other studies of early EV drivers, the vast majority of the EV drivers we surveyed had home charging, but rather than 97–99% as some of these other surveys have found, the percentages from the groups we surveyed were 88–96%. However, if you add in the respondents who planned to have home charging soon, the numbers rise to 92–98%.

Forgot to Charge?

One charging-related question that we haven’t seen elsewhere and brought into this study was how often forgetting or neglecting to charge at home led people to inconvenience later — either needing to charge in public (in the case of pure EV drivers) or needing to get gas (in the case of plug-in hybrids). The responses indicated that it doesn’t happen often, but it does happen for many drivers.

Related: Electric Car Charging 101 — Types of Charging, Charging Networks, Apps, & More!

Reprinted with permission.







About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.