On August 8, 2023, electric vehicle charging company ChargePoint announced its new plan to “approach 100 percent EV charger uptime” across its network. Segments of the plan include what the company describes as 24/7 proactive station monitoring, using machine learning to speed identification of stations that are down, as well as integrating predictive analytics to keep the whole thing running smoothly.
What Does That Mean?
ChargePoint says that it currently has over 243,000 active charging ports in its network. These charging stations are in constant contact with its main Network Operations Center (NOC), which the company says allows it to offer 24/7 monitoring. That way, it can more quickly notify station owners of any issues, as well as get maintenance teams on site to address problems.
The machine learning portion involves “automatically process[ing] big data feeds” as well as scanning social media mentions to more quickly identify individual stations with problems. In other words, the next time that EV users complain on social media about a ChargePoint station being busted, its machine learning algorithms could potentially pick it up and get it the attention it deserves.
ChargePoint’s announcement doesn’t list specific social media platforms by name. It’s not clear at this point whether it plans to scan the crowdsourced public EV charging station app PlugShare for complaints and/or issues, which seems like a potentially useful data source in this instance. RideApart has reached out to ChargePoint for clarification on this matter and will update this piece if and when we hear back.
ChargePoint - Map of US ChargePoint Locations, screencapped August 9, 2023
PlugShare - Map of ChargePoint Public Charging Stations, screencapped August 9, 2023
Why It Matters
Two surveys currently attempt to assess EV experience satisfaction with ownership in 2023: the JD Power Electric Vehicle Experience Public Charging Study, and the Plug In America EV Driver Survey. The most recent JD Power survey dates from 2022, while the most recent Plug In America survey dates from 2023 as of August 9, 2023. (It’s worth noting here that JD Power moved to a quarterly survey format with 2023, and that it’s due to release a new report on August 16, 2023.)
According to the 2022 JD Power survey, participants reported two major issues with public charging networks in 2022: Station access in areas where there “are gaps in heavily traveled routes and in high-density areas for people who don’t have access to residential charging, but most importantly, designed with things for users to do while charging,” and station reliability.
On a 1,000-point scale, user satisfaction with public Level Two charging stations dropped down to 633 from its previous score of 643 in 2021, which was the first year that JD Power conducted this survey. DC fast charging (DCFC) remained flat across both years, at 674.
Furthermore, the study found the following rankings among Level Two public charging networks in 2022:
- Tesla Destination (680)
- Volta (667)
- ChargePoint (639)
The 2023 Plug In America survey spoke to both current EV owners and people interested in buying EVs. It found that around 90 percent of the current EV owners surveyed were “generally satisfied” with their purchases. However, they reported dissatisfaction with the current state of public charging networks in the US. A full 46 percent of users who rely on public DCFC networks called broken chargers “a major concern” and/or “a deal-breaker for using this network.”
Plug In America 2023 Survey - Public DC Fast Charging Networks Satisfaction Scores
Plug In America 2023 Survey - Issues By Public Charging Network
The Sticky Issue of Public EV Charging Network Uptime
Like other things (charging standards, methods of payment, apps), a single standard to measure public EV charging network uptime doesn’t currently exist. According to ChargePoint, the company “measures station uptime as the portion of time each individual charging port is working, as a driver pulling in for a charge would expect, not averaged across a bank of charging stations at a single address.”
It goes on to say that by this metric, its public network in North America and Europe delivers 96 percent uptime. The company also claims an even higher rate of uptime for ChargePoint Assure customers (a plan it offers for businesses), at 98 percent uptime.
Another important factor regarding the US network is the new Bipartisan Infrastructure Law under the Biden-Harris administration. The terms of the law cover a variety of EV charging and battery-related topics, including a $7.5 billion investment in bolstering EV charging infrastructure across the country.
To qualify for federal funding, however, companies must meet certain requirements. For one, qualifying EV chargers must be built in the US. That includes the manufacturing of iron or steel housings for the chargers, as well as final assembly. A further stipulation states that at least 55 percent of components involved in building those EV chargers must be manufactured domestically by July 2024.
Another major requirement is that federally funded charging networks must meet a minimum of 97 percent uptime—which is one percent above where ChargePoint’s internal records show its network today. ChargePoint currently hosts a National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program information page offering businesses information on partnership with ChargePoint to install DC fast charging stations and qualify for the NEVI (and other) incentive programs.