In the EV book that I co-wrote and co-edited (with Peter Fox-Penner and David Jermain) in 2019, we documented the status of EV charging infrastructure in cities around the world such as Los Angeles, Oslo, and Beijing.
Since then, EV adoption has continued to grow by leaps and bounds. In this post, I intend to do a deep drive into the major EV charging networks that have a presence in the US.
It took me some time to collect information, and not all data are up to date. But here is the data table:
A quick takeaway is that EV charging networking do not make money, yet. All of them are still in their heavy investment stage, and most of them are still trying to figure out their profit models. Tesla is the only one that has positive earning per share (EPS), but its profits do not come from EV charging (they come from carbon credits, by the way, not from making cars).
As an user of multiple EVs, I have had experiences with 5 of those charging networks: Tesla, Chargepoint, EVgo, Blink, and Volta. Let me quickly share some of my personal experiences and opinions.
Tesla – hands down the best. Tesla wins for multiple reasons:
- It has the most number of fast chargers in the country;
- It is tightly integrated with its vehicles’ vehicle routing and navigation software. Therefore it provides a seamless experience when Tesla car owners search for chargers.
- The actual charging experience is smoothest. There is no activation, or user identification, or payment steps. Drivers simply plug in, and Tesla will do all the rest.
Chargepoint – Good on its coverage, bad on its lack of fast chargers. In terms of frequency, I actually use Chargepoint the most. This is because they are almost everywhere in my city (Boston). However, those chargers are all level 2, and can only charge 15-25 miles an hour. The other downside is that its pricing is dependent on operators, and users may be surprised by prices at some locations. The user experience is OK but not superior. Users need to identify themselves first by a phone or card.
EVgo – Good on its power, bad on availability. EVgo chargers are all fast chargers, but its user experience is not very good. In addition to its confusing activation steps, I also find the charging cables too heavy. I documented my experience in this post.
Speaking of charging cable, I find Tesla’s design to be the most elegant. Tesla’s supercharger cable are of the same length everywhere. They are relatively short, and therefore force all Tesla cars to back in the charging stall. This creates a uniform and inviting image. This is quite subtle but I have to say Tesla designed it to be that way. In comparison, Chargepoint chargers use very long cables that dangle on top, and looks not as nice.
Blink – I have used its level 2 chargers many times. Its user experience is about the same as that from Chargepoint, but I have found it to be the most expensive (at least in my neighborhood).
Volta – What is unique about Volta is its unique selling point of having large and bright displays at its chargers, making it a good platform for advertising. In the shopping mall near where I live, its operator deployed multiple Volta chargers and used their big screen to display ads about its retailers. I find it to be an interesting model, although its effectiveness remains to be tested.
Another issue that will attract more attention is the interoperability across networks. There are efforts in this area (e.g., by EV Connect), but for now most EV users still have to use multiple cards or apps. As EVs become more prevalent, companies will have a stronger incentive to provide a better charging experience.