Building the EV Charging Network of the Future

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By Dennis Kish, EVgo’s Chief Operating Officer, with responsibility for Program Delivery including site development, engineering, and construction, as well as Customer Care and Field Operations.
Aug 12, 2022

The EVgo team is committed to providing a world class charging experience and delivering on our commitment to 98% network uptime – we have EVgo boots on the ground that physically visit and conduct health checks on our stations in addition to the virtual team and machine learning tools that constantly monitor our network.

The EV industry is still in its early days, and much like other paradigm shifts ranging from computers to telecom, technology will evolve, and the industry will learn and innovate along the way. We have seen everything from major leaps in charging power to the unfortunate rise of station vandalism, an increase in vehicle-to-charger collisions, and (believe it or not) even a rare lighting strike (as far as we know, lightning has struck twice, but only twice). We’ve got more than 850 sites and 1,700 fast charging stalls with a range of equipment types and numerous factors that impact how each station operates.

EVgo Commitment to Uptime

EVgo has been building public charging stations since 2010 and having deployed some of the earliest DC Fast chargers, we can predict when and how things are going to break, so our team performs preventative maintenance throughout the year to try to limit the amount of corrective maintenance required.

We also kicked off a major initiative to upgrade and replace our equipment that isn’t performing to our satisfaction. In 2022 so far, EVgo has upgraded or fully replaced more than 45 chargers (and counting!) and as supply chain constraints ease, we’ll be able to pick up the pace. And while we have sensors and virtual tools that can identify issues affecting charger performance, some problems can only be identified by customers or boots on the ground – for example, a broken or cracked screen or other physical issues (we can’t put a sensor on everything). Thus, we greatly appreciate the real time feedback that our customers provide. Customer feedback is a key part of resolving issues quickly and keeping the network running smoothly.

Regular EV Charger ‘Tune Ups’

Unlike a car, we can’t bring our stations into the shop for a tune-up. So, we do as much as we can remotely to reset software or otherwise troubleshoot, and if that doesn’t solve it, we “roll a truck” to bring along parts, tools, and expertise to a charger that needs attention.

We monitor our network 24/7, conduct preventative health checks, and respond to every issue that is surfaced. EVgo's regular health checks involve testing four different methods for initiating a charge – EVgo program card, credit card, the EVgo app and other partner apps (like our roaming network partners).

As you may know, there are numerous business models for EV charging, with some companies focused on equipment sales. EVgo, in contrast, is incentivized to maximize charger uptime because we only make money if the chargers we’ve built are dispensing clean kilowatt hours for EVs day in and day out.

Want to know what it’s like to run a charging network in the young, but fast-growing EV sector? Take a day trip with one of our EVgo technicians and see some of the things we encounter:

Charging Equipment Degradation or Failure Issues:

  • Connectors break or get run over, but sometimes simple wear and tear breaks them down

  • Credit card readers fail

  • Connectivity blips (modems, routers, antenna)

  • Charger screen damage (dark spots on selection buttons, faded words make the button illegible, LED backlight does not work)

  • Charger power issues – we’ve got a lot of hardware, circuit boards and cables that may not always talk to each other

  • Incompatibility with chargers and vehicles – this one is harder to diagnose and our EVgo Innovation Lab does a lot of vehicle testing to ensure our equipment plays nicely with all the vehicles on the road

Tampering:

  • Damaged screens (cracked display or other visibility issues)

  • Broken or cut charging cables – vandalism is sometimes to blame (maybe some people are jealous of all the attention EVs are getting?

The flipside of a decade of experience in charging is that we have some equipment that is getting a little long in the proverbial tooth. Recently, we have found our most critical station issues are tied to cohorts of chargers with aging equipment that are also consequentially being impacted by global supply chain issues. Many of our vendors -- and particularly our newer stations -- are operating at or above our 98% network uptime commitment threshold, but some of our legacy chargers are more troublesome. EVgo is working diligently to address the older equipment and working with partners to replace and upgrade equipment across the country, subject to the supply chain bottlenecks being experienced by every sector of the economy.

EVgo Charging Crew

As noted above, there are many things that could potentially delay a quick start to your fast charging sessions. Luckily, the EVgo Charging Crew is there 24/7 and can help identify the problem or in some cases initiate a charge remotely if needed. When hardware problems are detected or reported to our team that require on-site attention, we try to deploy a technician as soon as possible – remember we want the clean energy to flow as much as you do!

With so many new EV drivers on the road today, fast charging on a public network is also a brand-new experience for many. To help make the experience easier, EVgo publishes educational content in our Help Center, including How to Charge Videos to help drivers understand what to expect.

We’ve also recently added QR codes right on the dispenser to make it easy for drivers to quickly access these hints and tutorials right at the station. For example, in some cases a new EV needs to ‘be introduced’ to the charger to allow for that first session to commence. Other common foibles include:

  • Selecting the wrong connector type when initiating a charge

  • Not plugging the connector fully into the EV charging port (no *click* sound)

  • Thinking the connector is stuck, but it just needs a little more elbow grease

  • Not swiping the EVgo program card close enough to the charger, or in the right location

  • A CHAdeMO connector not seated fully into a Tesla adapter

Our customers can help make our network stronger

We appreciate our customers’ patience as we work through any challenges that arise with specific chargers. Whether it is an issue EVgo can remedy on our own, or something requiring the electric utility or government official to address, we work hard to make sure station availability and maintenance status are updated in the EVgo mobile app and on PlugShare. Customers can easily report issues to our team using the EVgo app. In the navigation menu of our app, customers can click the “Help Center” and then select “Report an Issue” to let us know if they experience any problems with our charging equipment. Our team is notified right away when customers use this feature, which helps us address issues quickly.

Overall, EVgo remains resolute in getting our chargers dispensing power safely and reliably to meet growing demand.

Thank you to all our customers for being on this journey with us!