My trip in Porsche's electric station wagon highlighted one of the biggest problems with electric-car charging
- Porsche's electric station wagon, the Taycan Cross Turismo, can charge extremely quickly.
- But a weekend trip with the EV showed me that super-fast charging stations are rare and can be unreliable.
There's no question that
Today's electric vehicles can drive quicker, charge faster, and cover more distance on a full battery than ever before. But there's one nagging problem that makes owning one harder than it needs to be: the availability of public charging stations.
Because what's the point of buying a fun, quick-charging car if many of the places to fill up are broken, crowded, or, worse yet, nonexistent?
A weekend trip in
Among the Taycan's biggest selling points is its ability to accept 270 kilowatts of charging power, yielding faster charging times than many other models. Porsche claims its technology allows for a 5-80% charge in as little as 22.5 minutes — a boon for longer trips with multiple stops — provided one uses a station that offers 270 kilowatts or more.
I planned to find such a plug to see if filling up the Taycan really is as quick and convenient as Porsche says. But that's easier said than done. Charging stations are already much harder to come by than gas pumps, and the most powerful plugs are rarer still.
I was disappointed to learn that between my apartment in New York and my destination in the Hudson Valley, there was just one charging station that could deliver sufficient juice. And it would require a detour. But one option was better than zero. (There was wider selection of less-powerful chargers, but those wouldn't work for this particular mission.)
I planned to drive upstate without stopping, spend the night, and hit the 350-kilowatt
When I showed up on a Sunday afternoon, two of the four charging kiosks were out of service. Fortunately, I happened to pull up to the sole working 350-kilowatt charger just before two other drivers arrived to charge. They had little choice but to wait their turn; the other operational plug was occupied, and it wasn't clear when that driver would return.
Aside from an initial hiccup (the Porsche charged for a minute before abruptly disconnecting), charging went smoothly. The car replenished its battery level from 20% to 80% in a breezy 18 minutes, making for an astonishingly speedy and convenient stop.
But with a little less luck, things could have gone much worse. Had I arrived a few minutes later, it's possible I would've had to wait an hour for others to refuel before getting the chance to plug in. The broken, overly crowded chargers could have easily rendered the Porsche's ultra-fast charging capability completely useless.
Indeed, electric-car owners often complain about the sorry state of charging infrastructure. In a February survey of EV owners by a California government agency, 44% of respondents said operability and payment issues were barriers to charging. A recent study of non-Tesla fast-charging stations in California's bay area found that nearly a quarter were inoperable.
The technology to make charging fast and convenient is clearly there. But for more drivers to embrace zero-emission vehicles, super-fast charging stations need to be commonplace and dependable too. Right now, they're neither.
We're still in the early days of EV adoption, and things are looking up. Electrify America told me it plans to add more 350-kilowatt chargers starting later this year and that it's improving its existing stations. In February, the White House announced a $5 billion plan to blanket US highways with thousands of new charging locations.
But clearly, there's still a long road ahead.
Are you an EV owner with a story to share about charging? Run into your fair share of broken chargers? We'd love to hear from you. Contact this reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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