Over the Christmas break some EV charging facilities had the expected queues during peak times. This also happens at fuel stations, but that’s not going to stop some sections of the media highlighting the EV issue while overlooking the rest.
Let’s be very clear though, this is predominantly a human issue, rather than an EV issue.
No doubt the DC fast charging infrastructure is well behind the deliveries of electric vehicles into Australia, especially for non Tesla EVs that rely on a cobbled together charging infrastructure with limited chargers at each location that have problematic reliability.
If I was a first time EV driver on a Sydney to Melbourne trip that’s just parked a new Hyundai at a DC charger, only to find the charger broken or the app not fit for purpose I would be less than pleased.
For a Tesla owner using Tesla Superchargers it’s a human problem rather than a car problem, here’s why:
Most of the photos of Teslas queuing up for a charge are taken at or close to the middle point of a long drive between capital cities, “Deidre Chambers, what a coincidence, fancy meeting you here at a Supercharger halfway between Sydney and Brisbane at lunchtime!”.
People need to eat though, that’s true, and what better time to grab some lunch than while the car is charging. For 355 days per year this isn’t a problem, it’s travel times during the start and finish of holidays that have queuing issues.
There’s two ways to solve these issues: The first and most costly is for Tesla to overbuild the Tesla Supercharger network at potentially busy locations, in effect doubling the amount of charging stalls at great cost so for a few hours each day during 10 days of the year drivers aren’t held up for 30 minutes.
The second and far better solution is Tesla make use of cars ability to communicate with Supercharger’s, and as any Tesla owner will proudly tell you this it exactly what Tesla have done.
Via the touchscreen or phone app a driver can check on a superchargers status including how many stalls are being used and if busy how long the average wait time is.
Once the car is plugged in a Supercharger that’s deemed as busy will pre-warn the driver that charging is limited to 80% as a Tesla can charge from 20% to 80% faster then charging from 80% to 100%, and as the next Supercharger is rarely more than 200kms down the highway 80% is more than enough.
Thirdly, the phone app will provide an owner with approximately 5 minutes warning that charging is about to stop, cars left plugged in after charging finishes can be charged idle fees.
So if Tesla has this useful technology, why are there still queuing issues?
Firstly, many drivers don’t bother to check the Supercharger status before arrival because every previous stop at that location has been uneventful. A quick check of the status and a slight adjustment in charging stops could have made the whole trip easier.
Secondly, humans are very good at finding a loophole to suit themselves, the 80% charge limit can be overridden, and unfortunately many drivers do this, not because they need to charge but because their in a line for service at the busy lunch bar and don’t want to be charged idle fees.
Setting the charge limit up to 100% gives them an extra 15-20 minutes. In that 15-20 minutes another car could have charged from 10-70% and been back on the road.
Lastly, there are a small handful of Tesla owners that think they know better than Tesla engineers in planning a trip from A to B, these folks not only make their own trip slower but often slow other drivers down.
The big question is if all Tesla drivers made full use of the charging technology on long trips would it eliminate queuing? My answer would be most of the queues will go with the remaining only having a few minutes waiting time. Unfortunately, human nature will always create a bottleneck.
See also: “Sorry, I went ballooning:” It’s high time charging networks cracked down on EV squatters