Electrify America has been awarded the “Best-in-Test” electric vehicle charging award for the second year in a row by the Accenture-owned engineering services firm umlaut and released in conjunction with Charged Electric Vehicle Magazine.
The EV charging infrastructure company also walked away with last year's inaugural 2020 EV Charging Infrastructure Benchmark award, but this year's victory is a little more noteworthy, in our opinion.
That's because, unlike last year, umlaut included the Tesla Supercharger network in the benchmarking study for 2021, and Electrify America still came away victorious.
That may come as a surprise to some, especially those that use both the Tesla Supercharger network, as well as charging stations from other networks like Electrify America, ChargePoint, Blink, and others that were included in the study.
The proprietary Tesla Supercharger network has more locations and more high-speed chargers than any other high-speed DC fast charge network. Additionally, because of Tesla's vertical integration, it controls the cars, the software, the charging hardware, and its back-end, making the user experience seamless. You simply plug in and walk away - you don't even need to check because it always works.
Electrify America appreciates this significant recognition for our charging network. Every day, our team is focused on providing customers with a convenient, reliable and high-quality ultra-fast charging experience, said Giovanni Palazzo, president and CEO of Electrify America. To receive this honor from a highly regarded and independent testing company like umlaut is gratifying. Our goal is to provide a seamless EV charging experience for our customers.
I know this all too well because I own a Tesla Model 3 and use the Supercharger network when I take long road trips. I also use charging stations from the other networks (mostly Electrify America) when I'm doing the InsideEVs 70-MPH range tests, as well as DC fast charge recordings for my personal YouTube channel, State Of Charge.
Quite often my charging experience using the other networks is great, however, there are times when I struggle to initiate the charging session, or the station shuts off before I'm finished charging. I never face those challenges with Tesla Superchargers.
However, the devil is always in the details, and in this case, how the networks were examined in the test played a role in the rankings. From Charged EVs:
As they did for the 2020 benchmark, umlaut’s team set out in 2021 to test and compare the user experience at some of the best DC fast charging sites on each of the tested charging networks. Only top-rated sites were chosen, based on data from PlugShare—a free app (acquired by EVgo in July 2021) that allows users to find and review over 140,000 charging stations in North America. So, to be clear, this is a comparison of the charging industry’s best efforts: a search for the best user experience currently available.
As explained in the testing methodology, umlaut searched for the highest-rated sites in the areas that wanted to conduct the testing. For the ratings, they used PlugShare, a crowd-sourced EV charging station app that was purchased by EVgo in 2020. They then used those charging station locations in the benchmarking tests.
Therefore, no consideration of temporarily broken charging stations and entire sites where stations are perpetually out of service was considered. Broken and/or unreliable charging stations are the biggest complaint that EV owners have with public charging, and that fact seems to have been excluded from this test.
They did have a successful/unsuccessful charging session test, but since the tests were performed at the highest-rated sites, we would expect a very high success rate. If umlaut had visited a mixture of sites that had high as well as low scores, its experience may have been more in line with the general public's.
In addition to Tesla Superchargers and Electrify America, charging stations from Blink, Greenlots, ChargePoint, EVConnect, and EVgo were included in the comparison.
There were two main categories taken into consideration; digital platform and charging location.
Electrify America came in first in the digital platform with 275 points out of 360, followed by ChargePoint (270), Greenlots (250), EVgo (240), Blink (175), Tesla (165), and EVConnect (146).
Tesla led the charging location category with 484.25 out of 640 points. Electrify America came in second with 426.75 points, followed by ChargePoint (340.75), EVgo (338), Blink (330), EVConnect (325.83), and Greenlots (298).
This is not a test of the feasibility of long road trips while using any of these charging networks. Not all of the tested networks are available nationwide, and this is not a comprehensive overview of the US charging market. Instead, we’re focused on the user experience at the charging site and while using the apps and websites.
However, it's important to note that the digital platform category didn't include the in-vehicle display, only the app and the company's website. That's an aspect of the rating that clearly hurt Tesla's potential score because its in-vehicle charging display is very robust. But since this isn't about the cars - only the charging network, the features of the EVs used (a Tesla Model 3 and a Ford Mustang Mach-E) didn't factor in the scoring.
Tesla's lower score in digital experience is primarily because Tesla cars rely on the robust in-vehicle display screen. The app isn't informative as some other apps for the other networks (there is no supercharger map, for instance) because it doesn't need to be - all the information you need is on the display screen in the car.
Electrify America does have a very good app which certainly helped it score high in the digital platform category. I find that initiating a charging session by using the app works much better than trying to do so with a credit card. Electrify America is also the only network to have incorporated Plug&Charge across its entire network. (Tesla has a similar technology that allows the same seamless result but it's technically different so it's not called Plug&Charge)
The Mustang Mach-E that was used in the testing had Plug&Charge technology built-in, so the testers were able to use it on the Electrify America sites they visited, but not on any of the other networks.
Charged collaborated with umlaut to publish the results of the benchmarking and has a comprehensive article detailing the entire test procedure and reasoning for how the tests were conducted the way they were. We suggest checking out the full article on Charged.
Even though this may not be the most thorough way to test charging networks, the results are the results, and we congratulate Electrify America on another year of achieving top honors. The Electrify America is the only comprehensive high-speed DC fast charge network that allows freedom to drive a non-Tesla EV nearly anywhere in the continental U.S., including coast to coast road trips. They are also the only non-proprietary network that consists entirely of 150 kW and 350 kW DC fast chargers, while other networks have mostly lower-powered units in service.
The Electrify America network continues its rapid growth and in about three and a half years now has 800 charging stations and roughly 3,500 individual ultra-fast chargers open or with construction completed. In mid-2021, Electrify America announced a new "Boost Plan" that it would double the size of its network by 2025.