Why So Many Electric Car Chargers in America Don't Work

First Up 05/19/23

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Why So Many Electric Car Chargers in America Don't Work

In a nondescript office park in San Jose, Cali., ChargePoint Holdings Inc. runs a torture lab of sorts. It’s here that the operator of the U.S.’s largest network of electric vehicle chargers subjects its products to extreme temperatures and rain and puts them through simulated dust storms and earthquakes. Pulley systems tug on charging cords over and over, mimicking years of use, and a different device slams a steel ball against chargers to see if they’ll crack. Every year, the lab tests about 3,300 chargers, which then can’t be deployed in the wild, reports Bloomberg.“You take this thing that’s expensive, and you basically burn it up,” said Pasquale Romano, ChargePoint’s chief executive officer, as a row of machines nearby simulated plugging and unplugging the chargers’ connectors. ChargePoint’s process is geared at fixing one of the EV transition’s most pressing problems: public charging stations that often don’t work. Parts break, information screens freeze, payment systems malfunction. Copper thieves steal the cords. Vandals damage charging plugs or, in one infamous instance, stuff them with ground meat. Click here for the full story.

Not Enough Resources for EVs to be Only Cleaner Car Option, Toyota Says

A lack of resources means battery electric vehicles (BEV) cannot be the auto sector's only answer to climate change, Toyota Motor Corp's top scientist said Thursday, warning that focusing on BEVs could lead some drivers to hold onto polluting vehicles. Some investors and environmental groups have long criticized Toyota for being slow to embrace BEVs, saying it has lagged Tesla and others amid growing global demand. The world's top automaker by sales has countered that BEVs are just one option and that gasoline-electric hybrids, such as its pioneering Prius, are a more realistic choice for some markets and drivers, reports Reuters. Gill Pratt, chief executive of the Toyota Research Institute, told reporters that BEVs could make a positive difference in reducing climate change in countries such as Norway, which has a lot of renewable infrastructure. But in other parts of the world, where coal is still used to produce power, hybrids were better for CO2 emissions, he added. "Battery materials and renewable charging infrastructure will eventually be plentiful," Pratt said. "But it's going to take decades for battery material mines, renewable power generation, transmission lines and seasonal energy-storage facilities to scale up." Click here for the full story.

EV Battery Swapping Could Help Solve the U.S. Charging Problem

More than a decade ago, a high-flying startup called Better Place made a billion-dollar bet that electric car drivers would prefer to swap depleted batteries for fresh ones in minutes rather than charge them for hours. At the time, most EVs had 75-mile ranges and chargers were slow, few and far between. But soon after Better Place launched its battery-switching stations in 2012, Elon Musk unveiled a free fast-charging network that would serve Tesla drivers, then (and now) the most popular EV brand. Within months of Musk's announcement, Better Place went bankrupt, leaving investors including Morgan Stanley, General Electric, and HSBC out more than $750 million. In the U.S., at least, battery-swapping seemed consigned to the technological graveyard, reports Automotive News. It's back. Over the past two years, San Francisco startup Ample Inc. has quietly deployed more than a dozen robotic battery-swap stations around the Bay Area and in Europe. On an afternoon in May at an unmarked warehouse, the company previewed its next-generation swapping stations, at which a drained battery can be changed out for a charged one in about five minutes — half the time of its current stations. Click here for the full story.

A New EV Corridor Will Link These U.S. and Canadian Cities

Up until now, EV station builders have focused on linking the two coasts in addition to saturating large, EV-friendly cities on the West Coast with charging infrastructure. But despite the completion of several east-west charging corridors, relatively little attention has been paid to the northern and central Midwest. Autoweek reports, a new charging corridor, announced this week by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Canadian Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra, will aim to change that. Designed to feature EV charging stations every 50 miles, the 870-mile Alternative Fuel Corridor will link Kalamazoo, Mich., and Quebec City, Quebec. The route will cover I-94, using the tunnel from Detroit to Canada, and continue along highway 401 through Toronto and highway 20 through Montreal, using highway 40 to reach Quebec City. In total, the corridor will feature 215 charging stations, including 154 between Quebec City and Toronto, and an additional 61 between Toronto and Detroit. The stations themselves will including at least one DC fast-charger, so they won't all be Level 3. But just how many stations will link Kalamazoo with Detroit has not been announced yet. Click here for the full story.


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