Shifting from a gas-powered car to an electric vehicle (EV) means rethinking some of the basic interactions drivers are used to having with their cars. How you put energy into the "tank" is a big one, and that's one reason why J.D. Power recently conducted a study of EV owners to understand how satisfied they are with the various public charging options.
Most electric vehicle charging happens at home, so public charging is a rare or perhaps even non-existent venture for some EV drivers. But not everyone can install a home charger, which means reliable public charging is a vital component of broader EV adoption. Enter the J.D. Power U.S. Electric Vehicle Experience (EVX) Public Charging Study, released this week.
In conducting the study, J.D. Power surveyed verified owners of plug-in vehicles to determine their satisfaction with two different kinds of public charging: Level 2 charging stations and DC fast charger stations. These public charging options were scored on a 1,000-point scale, with higher numbers representing better outcomes.
Tesla came out on top in both categories, scoring 689 for its "Destination" Level 2 chargers and 733 for its network of Superchargers. Drivers also felt that public EV charging stations are relatively easy to use, with DC fast charging scoring 737 and Level 2 stations compiling a score of 716. J.D. Power believes that the good score for Level 2 charging means that current EV owners understand the differences in how the two types of chargers work, and they're not unhappy just because Level 2 is so much slower at charging an EV.
The DC fast charging networks with the highest satisfaction are, in order, Tesla Superchargers (733), ChargePoint (659), Electrify America (644), and EVgo (592). For Level 2 stations, Tesla (689) was followed by Volta (674), ChargePoint (660), SemaConnect (639), and, finally, Blink (535).
As more automakers add EVs to their lineups, they might start to look to surveys like this to decide what charging network operators with which to partner. Tesla is off in its own world, but that might be changing. However, other automakers usually include some level of free or reduced-cost charging with the purchase of a new EV. Volvo, for example, offers 250 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of complimentary charging at Electrify America stations for buyers of new 2022 full electric Recharge models. Also, all of Volvo's plug-in vehicles can access the ChargePoint network to charge and pay at over 80 percent of all Level 2 chargers in the United States.
Not surprisingly, when EV drivers have access to free electricity, they have a better opinion of public charging. J.D. Power found that satisfaction with DC fast charging went from a solid 706 when it was free to 673 when it cost money. Level 2 charging was even less popular when it wasn't free, dropping from 668 with no cost to 586 when drivers needed to pay. "Free charging, either offered through manufacturer incentives or as a result of a charge point operator's business model, presents a significant advantage in the public charging experience," the company said in a press release.
J.D. Power surveyed 6,647 battery electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid owners for the EVX Public Charging Study, conducted between January and June 2021.