For a frigid few late-night hours just before Christmas, Kyle Conner shuttled among electric vehicle fast-charge stations in a 50-mile corridor north of Denver to check their performance in a cold snap. It was 6 below zero and he had heard that fast-charge units newly installed by Volkswagen’s Electrify America network were malfunctioning. Connecting his Rivian pickup to one Electrify America charger after another, Conner discovered the reports were accurate: As snow fell around him, the chargers failed.
Within a few days, Electrify America had fixed the chargers Conner had highlighted, and a spokesperson told me the breakdown was localized to Northern Colorado. But the exasperated, 45-minute video Conner posted on his YouTube channel struck a chord with the public, surpassing a million views. His message was stark: Ordinary travelers are at risk of getting stranded for hours in below-zero temperatures and a blizzard. “I don’t know how I could ever recommend to you guys to feel confident road-tripping…in extreme temperatures with such shitty hardware,” he said in the video.
Over the last year or so, American consumers have finally begun to warm to EVs. But the sorry state of charging risks undermining their newfound infatuation. You can make terrific EVs with robust batteries that provide long driving range, and you can organize a competitive U.S.-led battery supply chain, as the Biden administration is attempting to do. But motorists are likely to ignore all of that and think twice before buying an EV unless they are confident that they can conveniently find a charging station when they need one, that the charging port will work when they get there, and that it will dispense power fast.