The ideal fast charging station for electric cars
As the electric car market is growing, there is an increasing demand for fast charging stations. These stations should be designed to serve EV drivers at scale in the future. Let's dig into what the ideal station looks like from an EV driver's point of view.
Here is my description of the perfect fast charging station, based on my experience as a driver and as the founder of Chargemap, a company that helps people charge at public charging stations.
As in retail, the location plays a critical role in the success of a charging station. The ideal station should be located in a popular area with appropriate services such as restaurants, toilets, and wifi, ideally open 24/7. Even if drivers stay only 30 minutes to charge, they need to be able to use this time efficiently. They also should find activities when they travel with kids.
Nevertheless, popular locations can have unexpected drawbacks. The more popular the place, the higher the risk of charging terminals blocked by cars that don't recharge. The ideal charging station should be installed in the less-used parking area to decrease this risk. For example, in a supermarket parking, the charging terminals shouldn't be in front of the entrance to avoid people using the parking lot for convenience and not for charging.
On the other hand, building the station in a safe place is crucial. In the ideal scenario, the charging station should be well-lit during the night and not be isolated. I remember charging alone at a Supercharger in the middle of a supermarket parking lot without any light and feeling unsafe as strange people were gathering nearby.
Comfort is another essential aspect. The charging station should have a roof to protect customers from the sun and rain while charging. You know what I mean if you have already plugged in an electric car during heavy rain, especially if the charging terminal had a clunky user interface and you spent long minutes starting the charge!
As electric vehicles provide the opportunity to use renewable energies, solar panels on the roof of a charging station are a must-have. In any case, the ideal charging station should be powered by renewable energy.
Additionally, the location of the charging station should be well documented in navigation systems and mobile apps, such as Chargemap, with the correct information so drivers can easily find it. It's required to attract the drivers and provide the best experience. A clear signalization should indicate where to find the charging station when a driver arrives on site, especially in ample parking or complex motorway service areas.
If there is a reservation system, every parking lot should indicate which terminal is reserved and which is free. The same indication is crucial for out-of-service hardware. When the drivers arrive on site, they must quickly understand which charger they can use. Moving your car to another charging point because you cannot use the one you parked in front of is a poor experience.
For sure, the ideal charging station includes multiple ports to allow for the simultaneous charging of several vehicles. The placement of the terminals should provide the ability to park a car with a caravan or a trailer attached. At least for some of them.
The charging power is one of the most important criteria for selecting a charging station. The terminals installed at the station should incorporate fast-charging technology to reduce charging times for electric vehicles. Obviously, the power should be delivered even if other cars are charging on multiple terminals.
The user interface is crucial for a suitable charging station experience. There are multiple charging terminal brands on the market, and they all have their own user interface. It takes some work for the driver to understand how to start the charge. The ideal charging station should incorporate user-friendly interfaces for easy navigation and provide explicit instructions. As a driver, you don't want to lose time to start the charge when you are in the cold or your family is waiting for you.
Furthermore, the charging station should be designed to be durable and weatherproof for outdoor use. The charging cables on terminals should be long enough to charge big cars or cars with a caravan attached.
Pricing is a sensitive issue. The ideal charging station should have electricity priced in kWh, so drivers can easily estimate the final price of the charge. I think it should also include some fees after the charging session to incentivize people to move their cars quickly. That allows other drivers to charge. Furthermore, the charging station should accept all e-mobility service providers and provide a credit card terminal to ensure everyone can start a session without headaches. The pricing should be the same if you pay with a credit card or an e-MSP.
The charging network should regularly perform maintenance to keep the charging station running correctly, and any terminals that are out of order should be quickly repaired. It means that the company in charge of the maintenance has a solid stock of refill parts. Additionally, it should provide a 24/7 hotline with people on the phone who understand electric car charging perfectly.
This post summarizes the perfect fast charging station for me. I'm happy that the latest charging stations installed in France are very close to matching this description.
If you're driving an electric car, what would you add or change in my description of the perfect charging station?