Electrify America is the EV charging network created by Volkswagen as part of its diesel cheating settlement with the US government. While the network is open to all drivers, it is also a key part of the company’s North American electric car sales strategy. It has been in operation for several years now, but it’s fair to say the user experience has sometimes been underwhelming. Too often its chargers don’t work or people experience annoying glitches when they attempt to use them. Electrify America says it has learned from past experience and is ready to up its game. First, it will replace 300 of its first-generation chargers with spiffy new equipment.
In the coming weeks through the end of the year, you can expect to see many enhancements at stations starting with the replacement of 300+ early technology chargers with our Next-Generation Charger. pic.twitter.com/TsPKk8WVmZ
— Electrify America (@ElectrifyAm) September 9, 2022
Next, it has devised a new color-coded system to identify each charger and simplify the charging experience for drivers. CHAdeMO chargers will continue to be available and will be marked with a blue label indicating they have a maximum power of 50 kW. The label will show one lightning bolt at the bottom. 150 kW DC fast chargers will now be known as Ultra Fast and will have a teal label with 2 lightning bolts. 350 kW DC fast chargers will be called Hyper Fast and display a green label with 3 lightning bolts.
“We want to help make the transition to EV charging easier by translating kilowatt ratings into simpler names like Hyper Fast and Ultra Fast with corresponding colors to help them make a selection at the charger,” said Robert Barrosa, senior director for sales, business development, and marketing at Electrify America and Electrify Canada. “As EV sales continue to grow, it’s important that we continue to educate everyone on how easy public charging can be, ensuring consumer comfort with making the switch. It should not require a calculator to figure out what charger’s power output may best match the capabilities of their EV.”
The company says the changes are the result of feedback from customers about their user experience, which showed a need to simplify the terminology used at charging stations. It is expected the new labeling will make it easier for drivers to identify which charger is best to use as they drive into a charging location. Some have groused it would have been even easier to just put 50 kW, 150 kW, and 350 kW labels on the chargers and let drivers figure things out for themselves, but the marketing types believe they have a better idea. The new labels will be rolled out at EA facilities in the US and Canada beginning later this year and continuing into 2023.
Easier Access Protocols
Perhaps more important to Electrify America customers is a new system for accessing the network. A more intuitive label will guide people through the payment process with a callout to “tap your phone here to use membership plan” on the NFC reader as well as “a convenient QR Code for drivers to instantly access Electrify America and Electrify Canada educational material on electric vehicle charging and charging best practices.”
According to Engadget, drivers will be able to charge at an Electrify America station as a member (via NFC) or guest (credit/debit card terminal). Previously, many customers didn’t know which to use. The company’s new labels clearly indicate the NFC target area is where members should tap their phones. The credit card readers are more clearly labeled as well, so guests can more easily understand where to insert their card. The company also made it easier to access support in case of problems, making the phone number more prominent and adding a QR code.
Electrify America Balanced Power Technology
Electrify America is also adding “Balanced” chargers that can deliver up to 350 kW of power to one vehicle or supply lower amounts of power when two vehicles are charging from the same power cabinet at the same time. As Engadget explains it, if a vehicle that can handle a 150 kW charge plugs in, the charger will detect its capacity and deliver the maximum 150kW. If another with a 280 kW capacity then pulls in, it will automatically deliver 200kW to the second vehicle until the first requests less than 150 kW. Each charger supporting that system will be clearly marked as “Balanced.”
Newly installed 350 kW Electrify America chargers will feature Balanced charging, while some existing chargers, especially those on highways, will continue to offer dedicated 350 kW power for drivers of EVs capable of charging at the highest speeds.
The Electrify America Innovation Takeaway
Electrify America is working hard to get the charging experience right. Remember that putting gas in cars evolved over the years from hordes of pump jockeys climbing all over your car to fill your tank, clean your windshield, and check your oil to today’s automated pumps that have video screens to entertain you while you fill up. It wasn’t all that long ago that drivers actually had to go inside to pay for their gas. Oh, the horror!
EV charging is a new paradigm, and while Tesla has set the bar high, Electrify America is pushing hard to catch up. It has plans of more “human centered” charging facilities that are designed to cater to EV drivers. It has also attracted a major $450 million investment from Siemens and secured 75 MW of electricity from renewable resources this year. It promises more canopies with solar panels at its locations as well.
It could do more to make sure its existing charging equipment is in peak operating condition, which would be good for its reputation and for the EV revolution in general, as tales of broken charging equipment ricochet around the internet, making people considering the purchase of an electric car fearful of taking the plunge.
To its credit, it is investing $2 billion in EV charging infrastructure over 10 years. By 2026, it expects to have 1,800 charging locations in the US and Canada with more than 10,000 individual chargers available along major highways and in cities and towns everywhere.
The company says it is committed to supporting increased zero emissions driving with a network that is comprehensive, technologically advanced, and customer friendly. Electrify America is the silver lining inside the diesel cheating cloud, and it will be an important part of moving the EV revolution forward in North America.[embedded content]
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