Electric Car Major Headache: Waiting Hours for Charging Bay then Hrs to Charge

Mish

A trip from LA to Las Vegas and back takes 8 hours by a gas-powered car but 13 hours by an electric vehicle.

The electric vehicle grand vision may flounder on something most drivers take for granted: a quick pit stop.

The inconvenient truth of electric vehicles is they are terribly inconvenient to own and operate. Most cars need a charge after 200 to 250 miles traveled.

Charging them requires finding a charging station, and then an open bay.

The New York Times reports L.A. to Vegas and Back by Electric Car: 8 Hours Driving; 5 More Plugged In.

The NYT author, Ivan Penn, drove a Chevrolet Bolt from LA to Las Vegas, a 540-mile round trip that many people make regularly.

Penn reports that in addition to eight hours on the road, he spent close to five and a half hours charging the car. That's about 41% charging time.

It could have been much worse. "We always found a charger available, though more than once we got the last one, and drivers arriving after us had to wait," said Penn.

Thus, what was 5.5 hours could easily have been 8 hours. All it would have taken was one nasty wait. Tesla owners have been known to wait an hour or more for a charger to open up. And Tesla owners can use either Tesla stations or public stations. The reverse is not true.

The United States has about 24,000 public charging stations, with an average of fewer than three charging posts. By comparison, there are about 150,000 gas stations, some with dozens of pumps.

Will the number of charging stations increase as fast as electric vehicles?

I don't know but the alleged saving over gasoline is not as good as reported.

Charging costs an average cost $10 for about 200 miles, depending on the car, That's about about half the typical cost of gasoline for that distance, according to AAA.

"Our experience was not as economical: We spent about $67 on electricity, perhaps $10 less than we might have on gas," says Penn. Of course, no one can predict with any reasonable degree of accuracy, future electric costs or future gasoline prices.

Is this really "green"?

Debates on environmental friendliness rage, but even if this is an environmentally friendly setup, it's ridiculously inconvenient to spend 8 hours or even 5.5 hours charging a car for an 8-hour trip.

Regulations

There are no standards for plugs, fast chargers, or number of bays. Regulations have not caught up, but Mountlake Terrace, Washington, a Seattle suburb, is forcing developers to put up charging stations.

  1. Signage. Each charging station space shall be posted with signage indicating the space is only for electric vehicle charging purposes. Days and hours of operation shall be included if time limits or tow-away provisions are to be enforced.
  2. Clearance. Charging station equipment mounted on pedestals, light posts, bollards or other devices shall be a minimum of 24 inches clear from the face of curb.
  3. Charging Station Equipment. Charging station outlets and connector devices shall be no less than 36 inches or no higher than 48 inches from the top of surface where mounted, and shall contain a retraction device and/or a place to hang permanent cords and connectors sufficiently above the ground or paved surface.
  4. Charging Station Equipment Protection. When the electric vehicle charging station space is perpendicular or at an angle to curb face and charging equipment, adequate equipment protection, such as wheel stops or concrete-filled steel bollards shall be used.
  5. Maintenance. Charging station equipment shall be maintained in all respects, including the functioning of the charging equipment. A phone number or other contact information shall be provided on the charging station equipment for reporting when the equipment is not functioning or other problems are encountered.

Required Number of Stations

When Do EV Vehicles Make Sense?

  1. Currently, nowhere, from a cost standpoint. People buy EVs or hybrids on the questionable belief they are doing something for the environment.
  2. For those who very seldom drive at all and for those whom walking, public transportation, or Uber is a viable option, no car of any kind makes economic sense. However, for those who demand the convenience of having a car, the points made below apply.
  3. If and when the cost of an EV is no more than the cost of a gas-powered vehicle (factoring in gas, insurance, life of car, maintenance costs) EVs become practical for those who seldom if ever drive more than 150 mile or so before a known lengthy stop that also happens to have a charger. For most, the charging station needs to be home or work.
  4. Until batteries charge as fast or nearly as fast fueling a gas-powered vehicle or readily available battery swapping stations exist, EVs will not make sense for a big percentage of drivers.

Number 3 may happen soon, or not, but 3 likely precedes 4 by a lengthy period.

Those who live in a big metropolitan area who seldom if ever drive outside that area, who also demand the convenience of having their own car whether it makes economic sense might find EVs practical in the near future. Many millions of people meet this description.

In general, ownership and inconvenience costs need to drop before EV ownership takes off. For many, we are a decade away unless and until there are readily available super-fast charging or swapping stations.

For those living in cities, I expect outright ownership rates will drop as self-driving Uber and new rental opportunities catch on.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (146)
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Tesla rules
Tesla rules

Gamble and lost. I won I had zero wasted time. Drove to the hotel had it plugged in had lots of fun for days went back home. Wonder what they are going to do with all those empty gas stations?

MiddleClass
MiddleClass

My wife and I drive our Leaf < 30 miles/day in the city and easily charge from a 110 volt outlet overnight. Fueling our gas car every 2 months feels strange now and seems like a dirty, smelly, time-consuming experience by comparison. Still love driving the Leaf after 4.5 years and it's lack of maintenance compared to the gas car. Never going back to gas if I can help it.

riten
riten

All the positive aspects of electric cars are ignored in this one sided article. I leased an electric car for 2 years and loved it. Some of the things I loved are ease of maintenance, No oil changes, running cold and smooth, extremely silent, very fast pick up. Just one negative aspect of charging inconvenience is so much emphasized in this article that all other positives are forgotten. A day is not far when we will be standing in line to get gasoline.

TyFawkes
TyFawkes

I saw the NYT story and as a long-time EV driver the math just didn't work for me. Driving an EV isn't like driving a ICE vehicle. Driving a EV REQUIRES planning ahead and paying close attention to energy management. The guys in the NYT story drove the Bolt like they would drive any other Chevy. That was their first mistake. Not to mention not doing any planning ahead for charging stops, which should have included alternate locations.

So, LA to LV is about 270 miles. At an average speed of 62 mph that's roughly 4 hours and 20 minutes. Considering temperature, terrain and speed I'm estimating the Bolt has a true highway range of about 118 to 120 miles on this particular trip. That's maybe 3 charging stops. Assuming Level-3 charging the whole way and 80% of charge = 1 hour we are looking at only roughly 7 hours max for the whole trip. That's including charging. Then I plotted the trip using PlugShare. The only working Level-3 fast charging available is at the 'World's Largest Thermometer' 177 miles into the trip. The problem isn't the Bolt, it's the charging infrastructure. Our only car is an EV. Contrary to the B.S. misconception and belief: "People buy EVs or hybrids on the questionable belief they are doing something for the environment." EVs are far more economical to drive on a regular basis. THAT is why we drive an EV. We drive between 1,400 & 1,600 miles a month for an average of around $38.

As a seasoned EV driver with only an EV I would have looked at this trip much differently. A quick check of PlugShare would have made this a No Go for the EV. Only an idiot, a glutton for punishment or a reporter determined to prove EVs are a bad idea would be stupid enough to entertain such a trip in an EV. A quick check of rental cars tells me round-trip is about $140 including gas. For the same money however, Amtrak will get me from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in 6-8 hours each way. Flying is about double that cost and about the same amount of time. Since I save so much money by not daily buying gas or maintaining a gasoline car I can easily afford other, sometimes better options.

IrishGlugg
IrishGlugg

Sad to see FUD here. You're typically well informed, but this has horrible examples to prove your thesis.

Long wait times are only on holiday weekends, on well traveled routes, in areas with high number of EVs. This is called growing pains.

Battery tech is improving 5%/year and Tesla is making even more progress with charge times.

A Bolt is NOT a car for traveling long distances. It's debatable if it can even "fast charge". Why not use a Tesla which is seeing the standard for EVs.

Please show a chart for auto driving patterns. A Bolt covers over 80% of most use cases. That's called a 2nd car that's full charged every morning.

If EVs were viable (Teslas nearly exclusively), who will lose out? The list is long very long and they have deep pockets. Think about that.

FYI - Tesla will be selling a couple million vehicles in 5 years. The rest of the market can't match Tesla's range from 7 years ago.

Jag1001
Jag1001

Bring back the Chevy Volt! Elon Musk and others just don’t get it. Primary electric with a fall back gasoline generator is the perfect solution for consumers. I’ve had a Volt for years and during a normal week consume zero gallons of gas. If I decide to drive to Vegas, I’ll fill up with gas after exceeding my electric range and continue on without having to wait one second for an electric charging station. Why does Elon Musk refuse to add an electric generator to the Tesla? I’d actually buy one, and so would a ton of other people! I refuse to spend the kind of money that Tesla charges only to deal with range anxiety and long waits to charge my vehicle. Chevrolet if you made the Volt half way decent looking you could have given Tesla a run for their money. Instead you cancelled the Volt to the favor of making pure electric. I don’t get it.

Mitchj
Mitchj

This story is totally misleading. Driving across the country in a Tesla is a breeze with quick recharge stops every 250 miles or so. Chevy Volt / Bolt or other EVs are problematic, they don’t have a charging network like Tesla.

Elf5150
Elf5150

Lack of knowledge on a subject matter should disqualify you from writing an article. As the owner of a Tesla Model 3 in the last year I have put 31k miles on this car, most of them from road trips. My 325 mile range is more than sufficient for trips to anywhere. Charging when needed takes roughly 15-20 minutes. Which is easily the same amount of time spent filling up, using the restroom and grabbing a snack. V3 chargers are rolling out now that will increase these speeds and improvements are constantly being made. Not only have I not spent $4,200 on 1,410 gallons of gas for these last 31k miles my maintenance is almost non existent unless you count windshield fluid and a set of tires. Is it as 100% as conventional as a ICE car no, but the absolutely marginal difference is worth the gain by far and it should be obvious to everyone that electric technology is where a majority everyone's R&D is being invested now. It is only going to get better.

Cocoa
Cocoa

I like the Volt which has a generator engine for the electric motor. The car gets great mileage but no range anxiety. Fuel mileage standards have gotten worse as cars get heavier with all the crap the government mandates gets in a car. I remember a Honda Civic Del Sol got like 52 mpg. America needs to invest in Mass transit and not try and rebuild the private car industry with EVs. That's just stupid

Carlos_
Carlos_

@Mish Never seen such level of ignorance displayed in such a short article. Can you answer this How many gas stations where available when gas powered cars first hit the road? How much did a gas powered car cost before the model T? Was it less expensive to travel by horse buggy or gas powered car at the beginning? Why are you such a Tesla hater?

Now here is my take Technology advancements are always unstoppable. You can delay but never stop. It is call human ingenuity. No it will not be different this time The cost of alternative energy generation is now lower or at par with gas based generation. Even if you do not believe that, you have to admit that alternatives are dropping in cost way faster than oil or carbon based electric generation. We still have not hit a wall on alternatives efficiency like we have with oil based fuels. Just like in the past with anything technology related the features and cost will drop faster than old mechanical based stuff like gas based cars. Electrics are simpler than gas cars. While gas car required increase complexity to increase efficiency electrics do not.

So basically Mish I recommend you stop hating a future that is coming even if you do not like it.

William Janes
William Janes

Automate the interstates first for self driving vehicles and freight trucks. Focus on electric vehicles later. Expend no funds for high speed trains. Lets modernize our beautiful interstate system and reap unbelievable productivity increase in the next decades.

bradw2k
bradw2k

A 2017 Chevy Volt now costs $17K and can do a daily electric-only commute, and could make that LA to LV drive using its backup gas engine. This actually kind of makes sense to me, as $17k is the most I have ever spent on a car. Versus true EV's, especially Teslas, which are less about practicality and more about luxury, status, and environmentalism. Granted many Americans will drop $40k+ (often that they don't have) on a car or truck, and if someone is in the market for a BMW Series 3 it makes sense to consider a Model 3 too. But call a Tesla what it is: a luxury and sports drive that proves one's environmentalist cred.

BillinCA
BillinCA

I don’t own an electric car. What a ridiculous article on so many levels... A few couple of immediate thoughts:

Most people do road trips like that infrequently at most. If you do, and you have range anxiety or limited time, rent a gas guzzler or buy a longer range electric. An electric car makes all the sense in the world if you can charge at home, have terrible public transport (i.e. LA where I live) and you use it for your daily commute.

The early and extensive build-out of the SuperCharger network by Tesla continues to be a huge competitive advantage (and brilliant move). The other U.S. and the German automakers don’t have a chance to compete with Tesla in the short term. While Audi and Porsche launch expensive and probably unreliable competitors that still don’t match the range of Teslas, Tesla begins offering even longer range options.

...now, let me get out that New York Times paper weekend edition as the battery on my phone is getting low as I wait in line at the JiffyLube for my oil to be changed some time this afternoon.

JPWhite
JPWhite

Just recently a Tesla Model 3 owner in Norway just traveled 1000 Km in 10 hours. Hardly inconvenient. YMMV

AndyMay
AndyMay

Great article to jump start debate. I'm on my 4th Camry hybrid. 34 miles to the gallon. I pay about $2.50 a gallon. Another person posted they pay $10.02 for a 325 mile charge. I pay a little under $25 for that same mileage. Is a plugging worth $15 every 325 miles? If I drive 10,000 miles a year that's a $450 per year savings? I'm rethinking my next hybrid. I hold my hybrid about 5 years. $2k savings vs the sticker price and hassle? Versus going totally green. I'd be interested in someone's thoughts on gas powered SUV's?

Bob777
Bob777

Skewed story. Get a Tesla model 3, 310 miles on a charge. Just drove LA to Phoenix and back, made it in 6.75 hours. Stopped at superchargers twice each way for 20 mins. got coffee, rest stop and ready to go. The supercharger network is getting bigger and faster. This was with level 2 chargers, wait till level 3 chargers will be even faster. I had a Chevy bolt for 10 years, only 35 miles a charge (now more) but if you get a Tesla you have access to more miles per charge and the supercharger network. Do your research. It gets easier and easier to drive EV's all the time. Also the comment about EV's creating more pollution based on how they are made has been debunked. Many have $$ invested in seeing EV's fail (oil companies, Koch bros, traditional car makers who want you to get more maintenance at their dealerships because they make money that way and EV's need less maintenance so they don't like that). Consider the source. You can now go EV and drive cross country, you have to choose the right EV. If you don't road trip you can get a less expensive EV with less range and no supercharger access and charge at home. It depends on what you want. You don't buy a sports car to haul gear like a pick up. Choose your vehicle for your purpose, don't pan EV's, that's silly.

FromBrussels
FromBrussels

All entoosed Tesla drivers here .... What about all those Teslas and other EVs exploding, catching fire etc ? Nobody ? I don t want that EV shit in my garage , I don t !


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