When making long trips in an EV, plentiful, reliable, fast charging locations are essential. Electrify America has done a good job of installing fast (150KW and 350KW units) in lots of locations, but the reliability is simply not there today.
Before getting to my thoughts on the state of Electrify America, I will recount our recent experiences. Also, I am restricting this to Electrify America for now for two reasons: firstly, they are the network that provides the Taycan’s included charging service, and secondly, they are the network with the most 350 KW charging units. We have used ChargePoint for a long time with our previous EV, and once with the Taycan too, and while I have never experienced serious problems with their network, the DC chargers they have deployed in most locations seem to be 50 KW units.
I should also note that Electrify America did reach out to me on Twitter and arrange to call me to talk about the experiences we had on this trip. In general, Electrify America support personnel are great, and will do everything they can to make it work, but, much like the Porsche Connect support team, they have very limited tools at their disposal to diagnose issues or resolve problems. Most of the time, the best they have been able to offer is to pass the message on to maintenance to get the charger looked at.
Our recent trip down to SoCal and back highlighted just how much the reliability matters, and how far from achieving it we are. The round trip was just over 1,000 miles, so we needed several charging stops (we also had no charging facilities at our destination, so we needed a charge while there to prep for the return journey). We left Alameda with 100% state of charge; enough to make it to the charger at Walmart in Tulare, about 220 miles away.
Wilder Ranch State Park is down near Santa Cruz. According to Apple maps, it is about 1hr 20m drive away from Alameda without traffic. It was a lot longer than that on Saturday morning.
We encountered traffic in several places along the route, mainly on HWY-17 before Los Gatos. Sadly, even once we passed that, there was too much traffic on 17 to really enjoy the curves. (“Winding Road” is not really a warning sign, is it?).
Since the traffic was so bad, we stopped for lunch in Santa Cruz; not down by the boardwalk, but on Pacific Avenue. Eating outside on the street we had a mix of poke from Poke House and sandwiches from Zoccoli’s Italian deli. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
One of the included services the Taycan comes with is unlimited, free 30 minute sessions on Electrify America, the charging network that Volkswagen are building as part of their retribution for dieselgate. As early Tesla Model S and X owners will attest to, free rapid charging makes road trips even better. Half an hour on a 150kW charger should be enough to get the car back up to 80% in most cases. On a 350kW charger, if you can find one, it will be more than you need.
Sounds great doesn’t it? Finally, a network to rival Tesla’s awesome super=charger network, backed by vehicle manufacturers so the experience with their cars will be as seamless as Tesla owners are used to: pull up, plug in and charge. And, yes, that really is how simple it is. We’ve rented a Tesla Model X twice now, once in the UK and once here in California. In both countries the experience was that simple. The navigation took us to the charger location, we plugged in (after a short wait on a couple of occasions) and that was it. No cards, no apps. Just plug in & charge.
My magnetic USB-C cable finally arrived at the end of last week, and I have the tip installed on the right side of my MBP, taking up one of the precious USB-C ports.
First impressions? The cable itself seems to be a good quality braided cable. The magnetic tip protrudes from the laptop a little more than I’d like (oh, Apple, why did you not embed this in the laptop and do MagSafe over USB-C?).
The magnet itself, while sold as using the “world’s strongest magnets” do not appear overly strong, My old MBP’s MagSafe connector was held better (although I think the recess into the case helped with that a bit too). This holds well enough, and there is a nice blue LED in the end of it to tell me when it is connected. It doesn’t have the orange/green color change that the Apple cables had, but I assume that is lack of a signal back from the battery. The blue light is better than the standard Apple USB-C cable though which had no visual indication that it was connected and power was flowing.
Conclusion? Not as good as MagSafe, but definitely good enough and it restores my confidence that if one of the kids trips over my power cord, the expensive MBP won’t go flying onto the floor.
As the owner of a relatively short range EV, being able to plug in and get a charge from public chargers can either be handy, or in some cases essential. There are places we go where taking the EV would be risky unless we could get a charge while we’re there (and some where we wouldn’t get home without a charge). At least here in the SF Bay Area, EVs and plug in hybrids are now common enough that finding a public charging space empty is rare. When a large shopping mall has only 2-4 EV spaces, the chances of finding one empty when you arrive is essentially nil.