Electrify America Is Reinventing Charging Stations

Photo credit: Electrify America

Photo credit: Electrify America

  • Volkswagen Group’s EV charging arm reveals concept of EV charging stations of the future, featuring more amenities.

  • EV charging locations from multiple providers currently tend to suffer from strange placement, lack of food and drink nearby, slower-than-advertised charging speeds and non-functional chargers.

  • Electrify America plans to open stations analogous to this concept in a number of US cities starting later this year.

It’s safe to say EV charging stations have yet to embrace food, drink, and other amenities, or even basics like overhead lighting at night. Instead, there has been a bumper crop of oddly chosen locations tucked away in parking lots, often not within walking distance of any convenience stores.

And if we had a dollar for every time we encountered a non-working charger at an EV station, we’d probably have enough money to juice up a Hummer EV with its 200-kWh battery.

Electrify America is looking to gradually change this state of affairs, revealing a new design it calls The Charging Station of the Future, Today. And when the first locations open later this year, the stations will be one of the first of their type in the US. It’s been a long wait for dedicated charging hubs with a few modern conveniences we usually take for granted at gas stations.

The new station concept has been designed to reduce the footprint of the charger itself, preserving space for more EVs in a given station. The chargers will have canopies to shield owners from the sun and inclement weather, while featuring much longer cords, to allow an EV to enter a charging spot from any direction.

The chargers will feature recessed touchscreens shielded from the sun, to reduce glare. Finally, these stations will produce their own supplemental energy via solar cells on the overhead canopies—a feature we’ve seen on Shell’s showcase station in the UK recently.

“Electrify America will be reinventing the look and feel at many of our charging stations to meet and exceed the expectations of customers moving from a gas-powered vehicle to an electric lifestyle,” said Giovanni Palazzo, president and CEO of Electrify America. “These new designs will help elevate the charging experience for our customers, building on the foundation of our ultra-fast and reliable coast-to-coast network.”

Photo credit: Electrify America

Photo credit: Electrify America

For the comfort and convenience of owners, Electrify America will build the charging stations near shopping centers that may offer curbside delivery options or even valet charging services. Depending on the location, stations could feature customer lounges, as we’ve recently seen in Audi’s charging hub concept in Germany. The stations could feature up to 20 DC fast-chargers, offering up to 150 and 350 kW of charging power, which is a lot more than we’re used to seeing at stations.

Where will these stations appear first?

Electrify America says the first flagship stations will open in Manhattan and Brooklyn on the east coast, as well as in Santa Barbara, San Francisco, San Diego, and Beverly Hills, California. The company already has advanced stations of this type in Santa Clara and Baker, Calif.

What Electrify America does not promise at the moment is ready access to food and drink at the station itself. The concept is intended to rely on existing shopping infrastructure close to the station, to minimize staffing requirements.

The reason, we suspect, is that convenience stores attached to gas stations tend to be built and operated by individual business owners that join a franchise for the purpose of selling gasoline, thus necessitating a business plan that covers staff, maintenance, and other expenses—issues that EV stations do not quite encompass as centrally operated business entities.

The business case for keeping a stocked convenience store on the premises is still limited by various considerations, including customer flow. If enough customers demand a place onsite to buy cigarettes, soda, and deli sandwiches, expect companies like Electrify America to jump on that opportunity.

Of course, the rollout of this new station concept won’t do much for existing stations, at least for now. It appears we’ll be living with very spartan stations for years to come. But at least Electrify America is looking at ways to improve the charging experience.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Photo credit: Hearst Owned