Building a system that will end EV charge anxiety

3rd October 2023
Sheryl Miles

Range anxiety has long plagued EV users with the fear of being stranded in the middle of the road without a charging station in sight.

Here, Xi Zhang, Director of e-mobility at EcoG, a former Senior Research Scientist at Siemens, and an expert in EV charging systems architecutre, talks about building a charging system that will put an end to Electronic Vehicles (EV) consumers' charge anxiety.

In a world where most daily commutes fall well within the range of even the most basic EVs, however, range is no longer the issue. Today, it’s the negativity surrounding the EV charging experience that is the real problem.

Buoyed by significant state subsidies worldwide, the rate of EV adoption has reached a tipping point.  In order to overcome the last hurdle remaining for the mass market adoption of EVs, it’s essential that the industry put heads together now to end EV consumers’ charge anxiety once and for all.

Here are some thoughts on how this might be done.

Accessibility, interoperability, and reliability

First, we simply need more EV chargers. Charging points are still not being rolled out fast enough to keep up with surging consumer demand. Approximately 20 cars share one charger in the UK; the number is closer to 10 in the US, while the EU fares slightly better with 6.25 cars per charger. Once you take into account regional disparity and charging durations for EVs, it’s clear the numbers remain insufficient to make a dent in the perception of charger accessibility among users.

Thankfully, a lot is being done to address this problem. The Biden administration has deployed $15 billion to install 500,000 charging stations by 2030 and the UK has also set a target of 300,000 charging stations nationwide by 2030. Charging anxiety will naturally decrease when there are sufficient charging points for all EV users.

Then there’s the interoperability of charging stations across different vehicles. This is currently one of the most highlighted pain points for both EV Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and charging station manufacturers. Though several different alliances of charging systems have been announced during the last year, a universal standard where any car is compatible with any charging point is the ideal scenario for combatting charge anxiety. Doing this would mean ensuring that requirements for manufacturing are clear, the implementation process is similar across the board, interoperability aspects are front and centre, and error handling as well as reporting are baked into protocols. This would be no mean feat of organisation, but everyone would benefit in the long run and the industry would be free to focus on improving user experience rather than just ensuring charging stations work.

The final piece of the puzzle is the reliability of charging networks. North America exhibits up to 80% charging reliability, substantially below the 99.99% operational reliability rate expected of the traditional automotive industry.  It’s imperative that the industry looks beyond chargers themselves and explores the user interaction with EVs. EcoG released a Charging Reliability Index (EcoG CRI) earlier this month to measure and compare the reliability of the charging interfaces of a range of top EVs. Based on our test set-up, the 10 most popular EVs worldwide showed an average EcoG CRI reliability of 68%. Unless EV drivers can expect to have an uninterrupted charging experience every time they approach a charging station, consumer anxiety around charging will remain one of the biggest hurdles to the widespread EV transition. EVs still have significant room for improvement when it comes to charging reliability.

The role of industry stakeholders

How to improve on all three metrics? Active collaboration across the industry is key. Problems with the charging infrastructure have been slow to solve because there is a complex network of stakeholders involved in the development and deployment of charging stations. The utility companies, the Charging Point Operators (CPOs), installers, the payment platforms, the charging station suppliers, policymakers and regulators — everyone has a part to play.

Automakers have to support a standardised charging system so their cars eventually become compatible. To that end, they should continue participating in interoperability testing and working with infrastructure providers to continuously improve the charging experience. Battery technology is an important part of this, but simply increasing battery capacity is not the answer now that it has crossed a certain threshold. Further support in deploying fast-charging stations would make sure that EV drivers are guaranteed easy access to charging wherever they go.

By the same token, charging station manufacturers and operators need to be working more closely with their ecosystem partners. What I’ve observed about the sector right now is heartening – it is a crowded space not just because it is lucrative but because people believe in the green energy transition. Existing players are open to collaboration and sharing because there is an understanding that everyone stands to benefit. Manufacturers will find it serves them better to build on the prototypes that already exist instead of trying to do everything from scratch.

To this end, policymakers should be crafting targets and incentives that continue to encourage global cooperation within the EV sector. Enforcing uniform standards across the globe doesn’t have to come at the expense of local businesses. Any policy around the building out of EV charging infrastructure should come with an understanding of regional differences as well as the need to minimise unnecessary compartmentalisation.

Driving forward

There are clearly some challenges that need addressing in the coming years. But the good news is there are steps being taken in the right direction. The more established EV players in the industry are starting to focus on interoperability. Utility companies are actively exploring the domain of energy management by balancing the supply and demand of energy to maximise their capacity without making colossal capital investments. Advancements in vehicle-to-grid functions in both cars and the energy grid are examples of this industry-wide collaboration.

Greater integration is the key to ensuring the sustained growth of the EV market and governments and industry players alike should be investing their resources accordingly. Our green energy transition is long overdue.

Product Spotlight

Upcoming Events

View all events
Latest global electronics news
© Copyright 2024 Electronic Specifier