Electric cars charging at a charging station
David Copeland Director Product
David Copeland CSL - Product & Marketing Director
3 min read

As a passionate advocate of Electric Vehicles (EVs) I find myself constantly up against it when it comes to convincing others to join the electric revolution. At the time of writing, with high energy prices, there's no strong economic advantage to owning an EV.

If your commute is outside real-world range and you have to charge up at public charging points, then the cost is as much if not more per mile than a diesel equivalent (N.B. that's not why we do it). That's not even the bit that causes the most frustration.

What hurts, is when I'm early enough in the morning to get to the closest charge point to the office first, and for the umpteenth time, the charger doesn't work.

The reason... the charge station has lost its IoT connectivity, resulting in a very poor customer experience.

I recently received a notification from my closest fast charger telling me that they have increased their peak time charging to 98p per kWh, which for a 60kW vehicle capable of around 215 miles (my Nissan Leaf) means about £58 to fill up and 27p per mile.

Sadly this just doesn't add up financially compared to an ICU vehicle where the same cost to fill up for a 50MPG car results in more than twice the distance and less than half the cost per mile. This is of course is far from the reason that people go electric (please still go electric!) but it does make you expect significantly better reliability.

There are a whole raft of reasons why a charge station might fail but according to JD Power an astonishing 1 in 5 attempts to charge a car fails. That's still better than my charging experience where I'm at 1 in 5 successful attempts from my local 7kWh charger (80% failure), but nevertheless, at 20% failure rate that's still pretty grim if you are running out of range! The very opposite of resilient IoT connectivity.

Imagine if you drove your petrol or diesel car onto a BP or Esso forecourt and failed to fill up 20% of the time. Would we accept such a suboptimal customer experience? 

The EV ecosystem is massively fragmented which makes life difficult for EV drivers. I have 12 apps on my phone to get from A to Z. BP Pulse, Pod Point, Shell Recharge to name a few. This to ensure that I can charge up at the right places, at the right time. It's also needed to understand how my charging is going.

Excessive you might think (some people claim to only need 3) but my mighty 1.9 star Nissan Leaf app doesn't give me the kWh that my car is being charged at and not all charging apps tell you how many miles they've added while charging. This means you often need to use a combination of several apps to work out how your charging is going. 

On the subject of combinations, you have to get the right combination of charging cable and the right charger. Think of EVs like big Smartphones on wheels. Tesla is like an Apple, where their Type 2 CCS cable is like Apple's Lightning cable, it only works with their own (due to a small notch in it for supercharging). The regular Type 2 cable is like USB-C, ubiquitous (unless like Apple there's a Lightning connector at the other end). 

This charging cable and socket fragmentation causes huge problems at charging stations. Imagine if you drove your petrol engine car onto a BP forecourt only to discover that your car couldn't use BP petrol and even if it could, you drive a Shell car with a Shell connector so you couldn't fill up even if you could use BP petrol.

Let's not forget there are multiple ways to pay, contactless, in-app, RFID card. And yep, you guessed it, not all charging stations used the same payment method. RFID is the most frustrating because unless you've subscribed and ordered your card in advance, there's no way for you to charge up at that station. 

It's not just this combination of factors that causes real life problems, because when you're an EV driver you become a master planner and rapidly learn which stations are compatible and reliable.

When you're at the charge station, and someone else is already there charging, you have a few options: hope that the charging station has Type 2, Type 2 CCS and CHAdeMO connectors (oh yes I forgot to mention CHAdeMO), hope that the other person isn't using a cable from the side of the station you need to use, and hope that the station can handle more than one vehicle at a time even if there are two separate charging points. 

Even if all of the stars line up, and you can get two cars charging at the same station it is usually not without some toggling as car 1 is booted off the charger when car 2 starts their charge. 

In short, the best hope is that there is nobody at the charger already, that way you also avoid any confrontation that might happen as a result of car 1's charge stopping and the owner not being there. Or even worse being there and getting grumpy.

It's good form to have a chat to the other vehicle owner first and ask if it's OK to attempt a charge, most EV drivers accept this and are happy to do some tinkering. I myself have to restart the charge manually from time to time when I'm not with my car and someone uses the 2nd charger at the station. 

So back to the worst bit and what really hurts. After all, charging cables, multiple app, payment type, and station fragmentation are just minor niggles really right?

In my campaign to promote and champion EVs it's frequent that I find my colleagues driving past me "laughing" as I stand at the failed charge point outside the office, usually on the phone to someone who is suggesting 2023's equivalent of Ctrl+Alt+Del. I guess this should actually be "hold down power button and volume down at the same time" since EVs are big Smartphones not big laptops.

This is really what hurts the most, having to admit that while EVs are ready, a great deal of the infrastructure is not. It's not just the end user who suffers, but the reputation of the EV market overall. In its finest form, IoT works best when you don't know it's there. Important to remember here that it isn't the EV that's the problem, it's parts of the charging infrastructure.

Similarly we shouldn't dismiss the severity of the issue simply because for me it makes my case for EVs harder to make. For those stranded in the middle of nowhere unable to get home, it's no laughing matter.

The one thing that most of these pain points have in common is that they depend on IoT connectivity to operate correctly. Chargers like Instavolt that can accept a contactless payment, need cellular connectivity to process it. The charging station itself needs to be managed by proxy, the best way for this to happen reliably is with IoT connectivity.

In the UK, since 2022 it's even been mandated that all home chargers are SMART, either with IoT SIMs, or with WiFi. More need for cellular connectivity in EV chargers, both public and home chargers. The UK Government has also manadated that from 24th November 2024 all charge stations must adhere to 99% uptime targets. Whilst this is still nearly 4 days a year downtime, and far from standards we adhere to in the IoT and technology worlds, it's a step in the right direction.

So the very good news, is that a lot of these EV charging headaches can go away, if you just choose the right critical connectivity provider.

With two and a half decades of expertise in servicing critical connections, our organisation is the ideal choice for your electric vehicle charging requirements. We currently connect over 2,200 EV charge stations around Europe with plans confirmed to connect 5,000 more in the coming year. Talk to us about our EV Charging Case studies and we'll help get you connected. Together, we really can improve the EV charging cx (customer experience). 

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