From Range Anxiety to Charging Anxiety

Russ Mitchell who covers the rapidly changing global auto industry, with special emphasis on California, including electric vehicles, driverless cars and vehicle safety at The Los Angeles Times once again joined Grayson Brulte on The Road to Autonomy Podcast to discuss overcoming electric vehicle charging anxiety.

The conversation begins with Russ discussing how voters in California are leaning on Prop 30 which would raise taxes on California residents with an annual income over $2 million by 1.75% to a State Income tax of 15.05%. The ballot measure has significant backing from Lyft, as they contributed $45 million to influence voters to vote yes on Prop 30.

Lyft made the political contribution because the State of California is requiring 90% miles driven in rideshare vehicles to be electric by 2030.

As everybody knows, drivers aren’t employees, but contractors buy those cars. So they want to make it easier for their drivers to be able to buy an EV and be able to use the EV.

– Russ Mitchell

Lyft’s biggest competitor Uber, has not made a contribution or a public statement in regards to Prop 30. They have been silent. While Uber has been silent, Governor Newsom of California has been publicly questioning why Lyft is funding Prop 30 in TV ads and mailers.

Then there is the recent UC Berkley/LA Times poll which found that only 20% of California consumers plan to buy an electric car as their next vehicle. With 80% of consumers not planning to buy an EV as their next vehicle, Grayson and Russ discuss what will happen to rideshare prices and the 2035 mandate banning the sale of new gas-powered cars.

The law was passed, the arguments were made and it’s just expected to happen. It will be a political fight, both within bureaucracy and in the Legislature and in the Governor’s office to deal with it if it proves impossible.

– Russ Mitchell

If the ban is pushed back due to the fact that it turns out to be impossible, who is to blame and what will be the political blowback? Grayson and Russ discuss what it could look like from a political perspective.

With the State of California clearly moving towards an all-electric future, the demand for EV charging infrastructure is only going to grow. While the demand for charging infrastructure grows, the need to ensure that the chargers are reliable grows as well. Without a reliable charging network, consumers anxiety will only grow leading to decline in EV adoption.

The California Energy Commission is dolling out billions of dollars in funding to build out EV charging infrastructure with the requirement that EV chargers are functional at least 97% of the time. While 97% reliability sounds good in theory, however there is no standard to define what defines charger up-time.

The charger companies are coming up with all sorts of different formula that would in effect as a consumer coming up to a gas pump expecting that 97 times out of a 100 it would be working may not be anywhere close to that.

– Russ Mitchell

Without guaranteed up-time and reliability, consumers will begin to experience charging anxiety the same way they experienced range anxiety when electric vehicles were first introduced. On a recent trip down I-5 in California in a Ford F-150 Lighting, Russ experienced the California EV charging experience first-hand and it was not pretty.

At a charging stop along the route where only one charger was working, Russ spoke with a fellow traveler about charging and that individual said; “I do not have range anxiety, I have charger anxiety”. Charging anxiety is the new range anxiety. In order to usher in an all-electric future, the consumer has to trust the technology and the fueling mechanism the same way that the trust gas-powered car and the gas stations where they refuel.

The question is with so many problems, and with so many billions of dollars raining down is this going to be fixed? That is really an open question and the entire viability of the EV market is going to depend on the public charging situation and whether they can get it fixed.

– Russ Mitchell

This is where Tesla shines, Tesla owners trust when they pull into a Tesla Supercharger station the chargers are going to work. When compared to all other electric vehicles, Tesla has the most superior charging network as they developed it from the ground-up without relying on 3rd party charging partners.

In the future do other electric vehicle companies form a consortium to own and operate their own chargers that are reliable and meet up-time guarantees that consumers trust? It’s possible as EV manufacturers outside of Tesla still have to develop charging trust with their customers.

Wrapping up the conversation, Russ shares his opinion on what the future of energy looks like in California.

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Recorded on Thursday, October 27, 2022