Underscoring the Need for a Robust, Resilient EV Charging Network
Paul Dinh, Director of Field Operations, EVgo
Paul is the Director of Field Operations at EVgo, responsible for asset management and network operations. In this role, he is committed to maintaining high network uptime of 98% or more, and site safety across EVgo’s network of more than 800 locations nationwide.
With increasing frequency of extreme weather events, wildfires exacerbated by climate change, a global pandemic, and public safety shut-offs, resilience is increasingly important to growing EV adoption.
Maintaining Reliability of Public Charging During Extreme Weather Events
EVgo owns and operates America’s largest public electric vehicle fast charging network, with more than 800 direct current fast charging (DCFC) locations across the nation. EVgo’s owner-operator model aligns charging network interests with those of its EV driving customers. Thus, reliability is key to EVgo’s network economics and the driver’s ability to receive a charge.
Accordingly, EVgo prides itself on its reliability, with a 98% uptime rate across our chargers. The Asset Management and Engineering teams constantly monitor the network and weather patterns, gathering data points on local storms and potential outages from the “boots-on-the-ground” technicians on the EVgo team as well as an ecosystem of partners across the country. This data stream empowers EVgo’s Asset Management and Customer Service teams to be on alert and resolve issues quickly.
During the recent hurricanes — Isaias, Marco, and Laura — and wildfires on the West Coast, grid infrastructure has been pushed to the test. Thus far in 2020, the charging stations in these regions were mostly unscathed and the EVgo team and our maintenance partners were standing by.
As California and the West continue to face unprecedented wildfires exacerbated by the climate crisis, as well as accompanying Public Safety Power Shutdowns (PSPS) to mitigate the threat of further wildfires, EVgo’s fast charging network has been able to maintain normal operation except for a few stations that were temporarily impacted in the Sierra region of Northern California. This is where the importance of a distributed charging network is helpful in promoting resilience. Customers unable to access EVgo’s stations in the Sierras could still feasibly access other nearby locations in Colfax, Truckee, Placerville, and South Lake Tahoe as alternatives that were not impacted by the PSPS events. Charging stations in the population centers – where EVgo sees most of its network usage – were not impacted so far by 2020 PSPS events. EVgo continues to work with our utility partners on improved communications with EV drivers so we can alert drivers and amplify calls for energy conservation during critical times.
Even during the 2019 PSPS events EVgo established a track record of resilience amidst regional crises:
The EVgo network maintained its reliability throughout shut-offs. In spite of utility, fire, or weather-induced shut-off events, EVgo achieved a 93% uptime in affected areas, with nearly all stations remaining online in the major population centers. While normal uptime levels are over 98%, holding the network steady over 90% during temporary crisis periods was a priority for us.
An abundant, distributed charging network led to minimal disruptions to EVgo customers during PSPS events in 2019. In the cases where charging stations were affected by power shut-offs, customers used the EVgo app or 24-hour call center to locate a nearby charger that remained unaffected.
When notified of pending power shut offs, drivers relied on public fast charging. Increased usage on the EVgo network during PSPS events shows that EV drivers are using fast chargers in lieu of and/or in addition to home charging in preparation for, during, and following shut-off periods. In this way, retail centers, grocery stores, and other EVgo locations have become resilience hubs during PSPS events.
In advance of these events, EVgo prepared our 24/7 customer service representatives with real-time data and tools to help drivers navigate to safe and energized chargers. EVgo has fast charging stations in more than 600 cities across the country and during these critical events, the distributed nature of the network further illustrates that the presence of abundant, reliable public fast charging is a critical resilience tool for communities.
With industry leading networking technology and proactive communication with customers, EVgo works to ensure EV drivers have access to safe and convenient charging, particularly during critical events. It’s equally important that state regulators continue to support distributed infrastructure build-out to meet the demand for the forecasted 50,000 fast chargers needed over the next five years. In a warming world, unfortunately the world will witness more wildfires and extreme storms, further highlighting the importance of EV adoption as we strive towards decarbonization of our economy. EVgo will continue to plan, reinforce, and communicate with our customers and partners so we can maintain reliability, promote resilience, and give EV drivers peace of mind.