"Beyond a joke:" Number of busted EV chargers causes concern as uptake jumps

2022-07-22 08:11:26 By : Ms. Agnes Peng

Australians drivers are going electric in unprecedented numbers, despite the severe limitations of the global supply constraints, but some are finding that going on long road trips is proving a risky business because of the number of EV fast chargers that are not working.

The Driven drew attention to the issue last month, pointing out the growing number of charging stations that were broken, some of them due to flooding events, but most of them because of the lack of spare parts or slow response to maintenance.

The situation appears to have gotten worse, particularly in the non-Tesla network in Queensland, where the EV community has counted more than 40 charging stations out of action.

This has happened just as the price charged to drivers for 350kW fast-chargers jumped by 50 per cent (the price for 50kW fast-chargers remains the same.)

“It’s beyond a joke,” wrote one frustrated driver on one EV owners’ forum.

“When the prices are going up and the serviceability has gone down, one must question what is behind all of this,” wrote another.

One EV owner pointed out that while the extensive Tesla supercharging network is dependable, many “legacy” car makers are dependent on third party networks that are not proving reliable.

It’s now a serious problem, particularly as the recent Easter holidays saw increasing numbers of families hit the road in the first holiday break that was fettered by the Covid pandemic in two years.

But for those driving an electric car, particularly if they were not able to access the well maintained Tesla network, hitting the open road was fraught with uncertainty as a number of fast-chargers continue to be faulted and unavailable for use.

And, as reported this week, electric vehicle sales are rising. A little more than new 20,000 EVs hit Australian roads in 2021 and the latest figures show a 150% increase from this time last year, despite a downward turn in the broader auto market.

Nigel Raynard, who operates a high-end Tesla limo service shuttling passengers between Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Sydney, knows about the EV charging problems, and is thankful that he has access to the Tesla network.

“I have (only) had to wait four times to use a Tesla Supercharger,” he said in a post on Facebook on Monday. “Three times I have seen the Superchargers shut down due to flooding.”

“To say uptime (of the Supercharger network) is phenomenal is an understatement. And the cost is very reasonable considering the redundancy offered and the speedy recovery of any units (I have seen one of the 4-8 units offline before) down is short.”

Driving more than 100,000km a year, he shared his experience of driving his Tesla Model S over 400,000km in just three years on the same set of brake pads. He estimates he has saved $100,000 in that time in fuels costs, more than justifying the investment in his ~$140,000 Model S.

But it appears that parts supply issues continue to be an issue for EV chargers, in particular those made by Brisbane’s Tritium, which has recently expanded into the US and listed on the Nasdaq.

“On checking today (price increase of up to 50%) the Chargefox network between Mackay in QLD and Sydney today has 41 units that are either offline, waiting for parts, not operational or temporarily inaccessible due to works,” said Raynard.

“Add that many of the companies offering networks offer little redundancy, or slow 7kW speeds, this is frightening for anyone considering a non Tesla who would like to road trip.”

When The Driven checked Chargefox’s app on Thursday, there were three out of six 350kW fast-chargers out of order in Zetland (inner east Sydney), Port Macquarie and Toombul in Brisbane, which was impacted by the recent floods.

Relatively new 75kW chargers located at the Gold Coast sports Centre in Carrara, Bundall Chambers in Surfers Paradise, Kurrawa Surf Club at Broadbeach and Nerang were also out of order.

Other 50kW sites out of action include those located at Zetland, Western Sydney Uni, and Dan Murphy’s Batemans Bay in NSW, the Albury Waste management centre, the Altona Civic centre, Coburn North, Monash Uni and Brunswick EV hub in Melbourne, as well as chargers in Gin Gin, Kingaroy and Cardewell in Queensland.

There are also numerous AC charging sites out of action, with charge speeds ranging from 7kW up to 22kW. These include Leopold, Grovedale, Forest Hill, Burwoodin Victoria, as well as Seven Hills, Parramatta Hyundai, Darling Park, and Lennox Head in NSW and Jimboomba, and Petrie.

The Driven understands some of these may only need a breaker reset, and has reached out to Chargefox for comment. However, as shown in the screenshots below there are numerous sites that require parts.

For Raynard, whose business relies on the reliability of chargers, the issue is critical to EV adoption. “It’s pretty hard to give them a pass with this performance,” he said in a note to The Driven. “It’s like Russian roulette.”

Bridie Schmidt is associate editor for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.

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