One in four public electric vehicle chargers around San Francisco don’t work

A survey of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in the San Francisco area has discovered that about one in four don’t work.

Public charging stations are on the rise as government bodies and businesses across the US hope to encourage people to adopt EVs and cut the country’s carbon footpring from transportation, which is the largest sector for domestic greenhouse gas emissions at 27 per cent.

Part of speeding that transition is giving drivers the ability to power up when needed. However, when researchers in EVs visited hundreds of public charging stations in nine Bay Area counties, they found that 27.5 per cent were unusable for some reason.

The survey, led by David Rempel, a bioengineer at University of California, Berkeley, tested for flaws like broken connectors, error messages on screen and payment failures. The results, which have not been peer-reviewed, were published online this week.

The most common fault, at 7.2 per cent of stations, was a payment system failure. Second was a charge initiation failure, at 6.4 per cent, where charging either didn’t start after paying or stopped within two minutes.

Around the same number had a problem with the screen — either totally blank, non-responsive or displaying an error message. Almost 5 per cent of chargers had cables too short to reach the car, and a few had broken connectors or other trouble connecting with the cars.

The study did not include chargers in private lots, such as offices, or limited chargers, like those designed for Teslas.

But assessing public chargers can be an important equity issue, according to the researchers, as “residents in rented or multi-family dwellings usually charge at public charging stations”.

EV adoption is a major goal of many local governments, and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, a regional environmental agency, offers grants to some low-income families to help them switch to EVs.

The paper referenced a February survey from the California Air Resources Board, a state agency, which found that inoperable charging stations were a barrier to using public charging for many drivers — and that around 75 per cent of EV drivers use public charging at some point. That survey notes that companies reported their public charging stations are working 95 to 98 per cent of the time across the country.

Fully electric cars in California emit – via electricty production – around 80 per cent fewer emissions per year than gas-powered cars, according to the US Department of Energy.

The average EV in California is also responsible for fewer emissions per year than the average American EV, in part due to California drawing a higher percentage of its electricity from renewable energy than the national average.

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