Even as electric vehicles (EVs) set impressive new sales records, challenges to even faster uptake remain. With range anxiety showing signs of abating and more affordable EVs beginning to make an appearance, charge anxiety is emerging as one of the most significant inhibitors for would-be EV buyers.
Many reasons are fueling this charge anxiety – particularly when it comes to high-speed public DC fast-chargers. Some communities and areas are vastly underserved, and the chargers in the areas that do have infrastructure are often broken, blocked by gas cars, or already in use when someone pulls up needing a charge.
Charge anxiety is exacerbated even further by unexpected grid power outages and, more pertinently, a lack of interoperability across brands and networks.
Drivers are regularly confronted with charging connectors that are not compatible with their brand of vehicle, as well as a multitude of unique network-specific apps needed to initiate and pay for charging sessions.
The problem lies with the fact that there are dozens of auto manufacturers, each with multiple EV models, dozens of companies making charging equipment, often fitted with different connectors, and dozens of different charge point operators each utilizing individual apps and billing software.
Interoperable chargers to overcome consumers’ charge anxiety and speedup EV adoption
According to J.D. Powers’ 2023 “US Electric Vehicle Consideration Study”, 49 percent of shoppers cited a lack of charging station availability as the primary reason for delaying the purchase of an EV. Conversely, respondents considering a Tesla quoted charging-station availability as a reason to buy those models versus other brands.
And as the pace of EV adoption speeds up, access to charging infrastructure is likely to come under increasing pressure. Even when home charging is taken into account, to keep pace with forecasted sales demand, the United States will need to quadruple the number of EV chargers between 2022 and 2025, before growing more than eight-fold by 2030.
What is more, with high-power DC charging (350 kW and above) seen by industry experts as one of the keys to mass EV adoption, expansion of access to these networks is critical.
However, one of the challenges facing DC fast charger availability in the US is the fact that there are three EV charging-connector standards: CHAdeMO, CCS1, and Tesla (also referred to as NACS, or the North American Charging System).
Without an “adapter” cable and dedicated charging app, these connectors are not readily interoperable across EV makers and models.
Of the current 11,817 public charging station locations across the US that accommodate 36,865 fast-charging ports, Tesla (NACS) accounts for 19,463 ports, CCS1 10,472, with CHadeMO deploying 6,930 connectors.
To increase the number of charge points available to EV drivers the recent National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program includes several requirements for the installation, operation, and maintenance of charging infrastructure - including interoperability.
Spurred on by the regulations EV manufacturers and infrastructure providers, recognizing the importance of allaying consumers’ charge anxiety to the adoption of all-electric vehicles, have moved with unprecedented speed to expand the public charging network by opening up dedicated networks.
With more DC fast charging ports than any other provider, Tesla in February 2023 announced it will open up a portion of its Supercharger and destination charger network, via the so-called Magic Dock, to non-Tesla EVs. The company will make at least 7,500 chargers available for all EVs by the end of 2024. No less than 3,500 of these being 250 kW fast chargers positioned along highway corridors, with 4,000 slower destination chargers located at places like hotels and restaurants.
And while Tesla opens up its charging network to other makers, American and European OEMs are moving to adopt the NACS charging-connector standard to expand their own charger infrastructure. Thus, Ford, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Polestar, Rivian, and Volvo have announced that they intended to equip future vehicles with NACS charging ports.
This connector is also lighter, easier to use, and doesn't have the locking pin on the top of the connector as the J1772 and CCS1 connectors do, which often break, forcing the station to be taken out of service.
However, despite the importance of the interoperability of the charging connector hardware, there are other technical improvements the industry can adopt to overcome consumers’ charge anxiety.
Innovative, reliable fast-charging technology eases charge-anxiety
Before electric vehicles can truly proliferate to the point where they overtake internal combustion vehicles, one thing must happen: public charging must not only be ubiquitous, but also easy to use, fast, and reliable.
In addressing reliability the federal government requires each charging port to have an average annual uptime greater than 97 percent, excluding scheduled maintenance, vandalism, natural disasters, and in some cases, limited hours of operation - although stations along Alternative Fuel Corridors need to be open 24/7. Downtime is calculated to the nearest minute, and for some ports, running at a reduced power level will be considered downtime as the hardware must remain able to deliver a minimum power level of 150 kW.
Although payment issues might not always be properly represented as downtime, payment systems are a great source of frustration, thus the Federal Highway Administration is also collecting error-code data to better understand the nature and frequency of charging session problems.
And with industry experts believing that fast chargers, with an output power of 350 kW and above, could increase the willingness of 66 percent of potential EV drivers to buy an electric car, many manufacturers are focusing on extreme fast charging to overcome charge anxiety.
Thus, manufacturers such as Amsterdam-based EVBox, which recently launched its EVBox Troniq High Power standalone 400 kW charger, are looking at reducing the time EVs spend connected to the charger. This will allow more EVs to charge or ‘top up’ in any given time period, thereby increasing availability.
However, while this holds great potential to address drivers’ charge – and even range – anxiety, it requires a full charging system capable of supporting such high power. This includes EV architectures incorporating battery cells and packs capable of extreme fast charging, without jeopardizing and degrading the battery’s health even when high power is applied.
Improvements in battery chemistry are critical
While upgrades to the fast charging infrastructure are key to EV adoption, improvements in battery chemistry will also have to be implemented by vehicle manufacturers to take full advantage of the planned high charging power.
Current EV batteries typically do not allow the driver to quickly charge without affecting the battery longevity. The intense stress on the battery resulting from the high levels of power required for extreme fast charging, demands a new and improved battery chemistry that will allow the battery to safely accept higher currents.
StoreDot’s Extreme Fast Charging (XFC) Li-ion EV battery technology has been designed and developed to utilize the maximum power available to charge the battery in the shortest time possible. Thus, the maximum charge rate is applied – irrespective of the State of Charge (SoC) of the battery.
This capability allows for 100 miles of range to be added in ‘X minutes’ at any battery SoC. Utilizing the current charging system and infrastructure technology the XFC EV battery is capable of adding 100 miles, or 160 km, in 10 minutes.
What is more, unlike many other fast-charging Li-ion batteries, StoreDot’s XFC does not deteriorate with repeated high-powered fast charging. By exceeding the industry norm for service lifespan and cyclability EV owners need not worry about unexpected costs due to reduced battery life.
As is often the case with the changing landscape of mobility, improving the user experience to overcome charge anxiety requires advances in several areas – from a widespread availability of fast chargers and the interoperability of charging connectors and software, to an improvement in reliability and a reduction in downtime.
But even with the deployment of fast charging infrastructure, a durable fast charging battery remains a key element in expediting EV adoption by providing the drivers a worry-free charging experience.
Critical to these advances are the cost, performance, and safety of the Li-ion battery – characteristics all addressed by StoreDot’s extreme fast charging technology.