Jul 27, 2021 - Energy & Environment

The charging travails of driving a non-Tesla EV

Illustration of an electric car charging pump with a dollar bill as the prong.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

America is moving toward an electric vehicle future, but the present infrastructure can be maddening for those who own an EV. Particularly if that EV isn't made by Tesla.

Why it matters: President Biden's infrastructure proposal includes billions of dollars for EV charging, in an effort to replicate the ubiquity of gas stations.

First person: Several weeks ago I bought a Ford Mustang Mach-E, the automaker's first all-electric crossover vehicle. And it's worked great for my daily commute to the coffee shop, errands and social engagements. Drive around, charge it overnight in my suburban Boston garage, and wake up to an estimated range of around 215 miles.

  • My only worry was driving to New York City, which I do around once per month in non-pandemic times. It's about 200 miles door-to-door, and the route is prone to construction and congestion delays in the summer months.
  • But I was assured that this might be one of the country's easiest EV routes, as the Acela corridor as been an early electrification adopter.
  • Those assurances were misplaced.

My plan was to recharge at one of the three I-95 rest stops just south of New Haven, Connecticut. This was my plan because the website for those rest stops said they had "electric vehicle charging stations."

  • At the first one, I spotted some Tesla chargers but none for other EVs. So I checked again on my phone, and saw a comment about how the other EV chargers are located where trucks refuel. Since I'd already driven past that spot, I headed to the next rest stop. Charge level at around 30%.
  • At the second one, I go to the truck refueling spot. All I saw were trucks and diesel pumps. Again, because of traffic patterns, I drove on. Charge level at around 26%.
  • Third rest stop. More Tesla chargers. None for me. I go inside to ask. I can't find them because they don't exist. Charge level at 23%.
  • Panic begins to set in. My navigation system identifies a charging station just a few miles off of I-95 in Stamford. It ends up being a few miles more, because it's located in the corner of an underground parking garage next to a supermarket, and the GPS "voice" spent a lot of time trying to persuade me to drive through a fence and into some trees.

Between the lines: As my Axios colleague Ben Geman wrote yesterday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has tweeted that the company would make its charging network available for use by other cars later this year, but has provided no further details on timing.

The good news is the charging is free. The bad news is that I only charge to 60%, because I'm impatient and because I've reserved (and paid extra for) a parking garage spot with EV charging in Manhattan.

  • Upon arriving at the garage, I'm informed that the EV charging station (yes, singular), isn't operational. Again, they do have working ones for Tesla. Charge at 50%. I realize I'm going to revisit that underground parking garage in Stamford.

The bottom line: EV owners not only need to plan, but also need backup plans when the original ones fall through. At least for now.

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