One of the biggest qualms many people have about electric vehicle charging is the time lost spent sitting in the car, waiting for the charger to replenish electrons. Hell, that’s why Tesla, Ford, Polestar, and just about every EV manufacturer is starting to add video games and apps like TikTok or Zoom—just to make that time spent while charging more useful. But what if we ignored the games, and instead, made effort into placing our EV charging stations in useful places? My local Kroger grocery store just added a set of DC fast chargers, allowing EV drivers to conveniently charge up while grocery shopping. Let me tell y’all, this is absolutely the way of the future.
It’s no secret that EV charging takes a long time compared to a simple refill of a gas-powered vehicle. Even under ideal circumstances, most cars will take at least 20 minutes to reach 80 percent on a hyperfast DC charger, way longer than the five minutes or so we’d spend at any given gas station. Thus, that extra time is often one of the biggest points of contention amongst EV skeptics; “I can’t wait that long, I’ve got things to do!” they’d say.
The missed opportunity cost eaten up by sitting in an EV and waiting for the car to recharge, isn’t acceptable to them.
But, like, what if you didn’t have to wait and twiddle your thumbs? Why not fold EV charging into another activity?
I’ve been doing that for a while now with my Mitsubishi i-MiEV. I’ve picked a local coffee shop that has access to charging, allowing me to work from home, sip a coffee, and charge my car. By the time I’m done with a substantial portion of work, the i-MiEV is good to go for the next 45-50 miles of use. Similarly, my Kroger grocery store has installed DC fast chargers, making it a boon for the off day I have a press car and need a full charge. By the time I’ve finished my grocery shopping, DC fast charger has just about finished recharging the car. [Editor’s note: The HEB grocery store near my parents’ place in Texas has the fast Tesla Supercharger stations, and I can confirm this is a superb way of adding range and being productive at the same time. Go grocery stations! -PG]
I didn’t sit in the car, twiddling my thumbs, lamenting that I’d wasted half an hour of my time, that could have been spent doing something else. There was no lost utility recharging, and the time spent charging was used valuably for grocery shopping. The experience was so seamless and convenient, that I had convinced myself that every grocery store or department store should have DC fast charging facilities.
True, concerns about charging don’t exactly evaporate. I’ve written about them before, there are plenty of class and work schedule constraints that don’t seem to pan out for the folks who don’t have a specific 9-5 office job, or live in an area with a robust charging infrastructure. Even the grocery store where I recharged was in a neighborhood that definitely has been accused of being gentrified, but that’s beside the point.
Being able to turn the charging experience into a passive thing that happens while you’re doing something else, is something that should be available to EV drivers of all incomes. Maximizing opportunity cost is good for everyone, y’know?
I suppose that’s easier said than done, though. In my experience, most DC fast charging stations are in the middle of nowhere, next to things that aren’t exactly desirable. In Autopian Slack, Patrick George commented that he slow-charged a Polestar 2 next to an awkward light pole at a random CVS in Brooklyn. Not ideal. Even plenty of DC fast charging stations are in weird spaces, often poorly lit, and in areas where some drivers just don’t feel comfortable enough to leave their car.
To me, EV charging will likely always be relatively slow compared to refilling a fuel-powered car. Instead of working to close the gap with what are likely diminishing returns on charging speed, why not work within the limits of the service, offering tangible, useful things to do while charging? Sure, some charging stations and service providers have that idea, like Subway’s charging oasis.
But charging stations paired with useful points of interest should be the norm, not just a gimmick to sell sandwiches where they refuse to tessellate the cheese correctly.